Young Russian opens Piano Festival in stellar style
Sometimes, things just don’t work out as planned.
A case of food poisoning sidelined German pianist Joseph Moog, who was slated to open Miami International Piano Festival’s Discovery Series Thursday night at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. But fast action by artistic director Giselle Brodsky tapped 22-year-old Russian pianist Philipp Kopachevsky, a stellar replacement that gave the audience full value for the ticket price and then some.
Kopachevsky, who was in Florida to perform at the 2012 ArtsNaples World Festival, gave a two-hour program showcasing his considerable breadth and depth with a series of works well-suited to his musical sensibilities.
An assertive approach to the keys and round, ringing chords marked Kopachevsky’s concert opener, Polonaise Héroïque by Frederic Chopin. The set of five Chopin waltzes which followed established Kopachevsky as a young poet, capable of navigating a variety of moods, from martial to tender, in the blink of an eye. While the waltzes would have made a great closer for other pianists, Kopachevsky used them as a warm up. By the end of the set, he had moved well beyond any technical challenges from the piano and the theater into his own musical world, granting the audience intimate access.
Kopachevsky’s inexhaustible technical reserves and showmanship increased over the course of the evening. He performed the most ridiculously challenging works, such as Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 10, with an easy playfulness that marked his individual style. Mixed with this capriciousness was an equally youthful, unaffected melancholy, transporting the simplest work on the program, Jean Sibelius’ “Elegy” from the King Christian II Suite, into a moving reminder of what it is to be consumed by adolescent longing.
In contrast, his lightness of touch in C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in G major sparkled with a humorously agile, elastic syncopation in the Allegro assai which belied his utter control over touch and voicing. This same control brought a gravitas to the Andante’s simple, cascading lines, and a crisp edge to the Presto.
For most of the evening, Kopachevsky was at his best in the lyrical sections of works, with breathtaking handling of the quietest dynamics and most transparent textures. But as the evening progressed, he brought ever-greater strength and power to the music, revealing a full understanding of pianistic color and possibility.
Kopachevsky also understands pacing, and his concert closer, La Valse by Maurice Ravel, not only transcended everything else on the program, but plumbed the depths of his capabilities, confirming him as a virtuoso. From the start, Kopachevsky established a moody, exotic landscape, out of which snatches of music emerged as if from a mist. Kopachevsky brought all of his technique and poetry to bear on the epic demands of the choreographic poem, in a trajectory from elegant and smooth to grotesque and frenzied. His completely unrestrained finale brought him off the bench repeatedly, whipping the audience into a similar frenzy.