Review of piano recital by Nikolai Saratovsky

John Strode-Penny

The Mulled Wine Concert with Nikolai Saratovsky (piano) June 23, 2019

Russian concert pianist Nikolai Saratovsky has returned to Kapiti to perform a piano recital, following on from his highly successful concert here a year ago. This time the concert was held in the Raumati South Memorial Hall on Sunday 23 June. He is in New Zealand at the invitation of concert pianist Mary Gow and the Mulled Wine Concerts in Paekakariki. Mr Saratovsky performed pieces by Bartok, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin and Mussorgsky.

The concert opened with the well known Six Romanian Folk Dances by Bartok. Their evocative rhythms were succinctly brought out. A lighter touch was demonstrated with the Chopin Valses with brilliant playing and driving rhythms. The well known "Minute Waltz" was very entertaining. The Transcendental Etudes of Franz Liszt gave a full variety of expression. With hands poised above the keys, Mr Saratovsky demonstrated with masterful touch the thunderous power of Liszt in Nos 7 (Eroica) and 8, the latter notably including the very top note of the piano. The thunderous force of No.11 (Harmonies du Soir) gave way to a meditating calm and the sonorous bass of the Schimmel grand piano did ample justice to the No 12 (Chasse-neige). 

The Rachmaninoff Elegie with its quiet tones was followed by his famous Prelude in G minor (Alla marcia) with Mr Saratovsky demonstrating his prodigious technique for the military, driving force contrasting with the beautiful quiet middle theme. Two Scriabin Etudes demonstrated the unusual harmonies and power of this composer. 

The concert concluded with Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky. This was the tour de force of the afternoon. The audience was totally wrapped as the composer expressively moves through the gallery with dignity and pompous walk between the paintings. The climax brought to an end a magnificent concert. A short Tchaikovsky piece followed as a calming encore. It is indeed a privilege to have heard once again such a magnificent pianist.

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