Monday, May 25, 2009

Ilya Rashkovskiy

The afternoon session rounds out its trio of pianists of Slavic descent with Ilya Rashkovskiy. It's all Asian pianists from here until the end of the prelims. There's already been some stories in the press asking "Where are the Russians?" No doubt the absence of players from the former Soviet Union has been a major factor in the paucity of Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, and Scriabin being played in this first round. I remember in 2001 it seemed like half the field was playing Scriabin.

Anyway, that's a backdrop to Rashkovskiy, who competed here four years ago. I didn't remember his performance from then, and he doesn't look to have developed significantly as an interpreter since then. He played Beethoven's Sonata in A major (Op. 110), our first taste of the mystical compositions that the German composed late in his life. These pose special interpretive problems, and Rashkovskiy wasn't nearly up to the challenge of breaking this down. Heck, even the much more straightforward Chopin Ballade in G minor that followed it was too much for him. He couldn't differentiate between the melancholy opening of the piece and the wild outbursts of despair that came later.

Only when he finished with Rachmaninov's Second Piano Sonata did this player seem at ease. His performance didn't shed any new light on the work, but it was a relief just to hear this sonata played with an idiomatic Russian sound and a feel for the emotions. (Something Zhang Feng pointedly didn't provide in his version.) It wasn't quite enough to rescue Rashkovskiy's first-round performance, but it was still a reminder of the glory that was the Russian school of pianism.

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