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With gratitude, Helen"


Review of piano recital by Nikolai Saratovsky

John Strode-Penny

The Mulled Wine Concert with Nikolai Saratovsky (piano) June 24, 2018

It was a cold day as we entered the venue for this concert. Outside, the dulled sky formed a backdrop to the nearby beach and sea. The heating soon had us warmed up, as well as the piano. A sizable audience was clustered closely around the grand piano and filled the hall. Mr Saratovsky walked briskly in, sat down and commenced with a Bach Capriccio. His command of the keyboard was immediately apparent with an elegant and tasteful presentation. His wide-ranging repertoire next moved onto a Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue, reverting back in time to the two well-known Schubert Impromtus Op. 90.
The second in particular gives the appearance of a runaway train, yet always under complete control.. Onto the beautiful, mysterious and dark Brahms Intermezzos, Op. 118 and it was half-time with an enjoyable break sipping the mulled wine.

The second half opened with the beautiful, languid Chopin Nocturne Op. 27, No.2. sensitively played but perhaps could have given more singing quality. The two challenging Debussy Preludes "Danse de Puck" and "General Lavine Eccentric" were well appreciated. Onto the famous Chopin "Heroic" A Flat Polonaise which was delivered with all the speed, power and drama that both pianist and piano could convey. This received a tumultuous standing ovation from a very appreciative audience.

The Rachmaninoff Preludes Op. 32 and Etudes-Tableaux Op. 39 are clearly very close to Mr Saratovsky's heart and Prokofiev's Five pieces for piano, "Sarcasms", gave the audience a taste of a more modern Russian style. The formal program concluded
with the evocative and powerful Spanish Malaguena by Ernesto Lecuona y Casado, again received with a tremendous standing ovation.

More was to follow with several encores including a charming duet lullaby played with concert pianist Mary Gow, who invited Mr Saratovsky to New Zealand. Mr Saratovsky concluded the concert with a stunning rendition of the Rachmaninoff G minor Prelude Op. 23, demonstrating his prodigious technique and keyboard control coupled with the evocative, dreamy middle section. This was a favourite of pianist Vladimir Horowitz when he played with Toscanini for the Allied troops in World War 2 concerts. The Russian pianist Emil Gilels also played this to the Russian troops at the front in the War.

It was a privilege to hear this thirty-one year old concert pianist. He thoroughly enjoyed the occasion, relating well with his audience and with total commitment to his performance. His memory is phenomenal. We can only hope he returns some day.

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