Vadym Kholodenko plays Rachmaninoff & Medtner
For his first solo disc after winning the Gold Medal at the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition last year, Vadym Kholodenko sets himself the formidable task of Medtner’s Night Wind Sonata. It is a notoriously thorny piece to play, a one movement epic lasting half an hour in two linked sections, and no less difficult for the listener: the first section is an Allegro in sonata form but seems almost as meandering as the second (Allegro molto sfrenatamente – ‘riotously’). Yet its relentless restlessness and teeming profusion of ideas cast a mesmeric spell: a remarkable work, which Medtner dedicated to his friend Rachmaninov.
Kholodenko, born in 1986 and from troubled Kiev, gets inside this turbulent score with technique and stamina to spare, evoking everything from ‘galloping gusts and shrieking blasts to soft breezes, with swirling eddies’ (the Delos booklet), played with a well-recorded, full-blooded tone. But Marc-André Hamelin, no less sonorous and heartfelt, offers a more refined observation of Medtner’s meticulous dynamic and agogic markings, as well as more clearly voicing the often intricate contrapuntal writing. Longer acquaintance with the score and more mature pianism pay their dividends but Kholodenko’s is still a fine achievement.
The selection of Rachmaninov transcriptions comes off splendidly. Kholodenko conveys his obvious enjoyment of their sophisticated craftsmanship, revelling in the Godowsky-like treatments of Schubert’s ‘Wohin?’, the Tchaikovsky Lullaby and what is still known as the Polka de WR (Delos’s track-listing fails to identify it correctly as Behr-Rachmaninov: Lachtäubchen Polka). There’s a welcome measure, too, of charm and good humour in the two Kreisler paraphrases, and if he cannot compete with the composer’s patrician nonchalance, he succeeds well enough on his own terms. We shall be hearing a lot more of Kholodenko.