Chamber: Saturday, June 1, 7:30 p.m.
with the Brentano String Quartet
Nikita Abrosimov was completely unprepared to play the Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81. It was obvious from the beginning that he had given it short shrift in his preparation. (Although to be fair, he was one of the alternates for the competition and notified a few weeks before it was to begin.)
chamber performance with
the Brentano String Quartet
Perhaps his problems were compounded by a lack of experience playing chamber music. He rarely connected with the players and, worse, there were wrong notes here and there. Just because the pianist can always play from the music in a chamber music performance doesn’t mean that it requires any less preparation than the big solo pieces on his other programs or the concerto that will come later.
One questionable performance in the Cliburn doesn't automatically eliminate you. In fact, there have been gold medal winners who later said they totally messed up in the chamber music portion. But Abrosimov certainly didn't do himself any favors with this performance.
Recital: Monday, June 3, 7:30 p.m.
Nikita Abrosimov continued to disappoint in his semifinal round appearances. After a crude and unprepared trip through the Dvořák Quintet in the first round, it was expected that he would pull himself together and give a measured performance in his recital. Alas, that did not happen. In fact, he was even wilder and more ferocious. Each selection was played at a more considerable magnitude of loudness than was necessary. By the end, he was completely out of control.
He started with Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme by Corelli, op. 42, which was too loud from the start, as if it were a piece full of fortissimo markings. In fact, the predominate markings are pianissimo, with many passages marked piano and a number of the variations barely reaching forte, with a lot of mezzo forte playing along the way. It was all too loud and by the end, where some real volume is required, he was reduced to banging and missing notes in the process.
Theofanidis’ Birichino suffered a similar fate. Once again, he neglected to find the humor that the composer put in the piece and even in the title.
Scriabin’s Vers la flamme, op. 72, was his best playing of the recital but it was also overplayed.
There is nothing much further to add about Stravinsky’s Trois mouvements de Pétrouchka. He started out with some finesse and caught the festive mood. The first movement was on the same level, for too long. The second movement was better; he was much more expressive and communicated the many sudden mood changes, demonstrating that he is able to play musically when he keeps himself on a shorter leash. The last movement was a shocking display—it was tough to watch someone self-destruct like that.
◊ Our profile of Nikita Abrosimov, 24, Russia
◊ You can see quick links to the reviews of the other semifinalists here