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2013 VAN CLIBURN INTERNATIONAL PIANO COMPETITION


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Nikita Mndoyants in the second of his finals performances at the Cliburn

Cliburn Finals: Nikita Mndoyants

Reviews of the final concerti performances by the 24-year-old Russian in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Second performance added.



published Saturday, June 8, 2013

Concerto 1: Thursday, June 6

PROKOFIEV   Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, op. 16

With Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin

Photo: Robert Hart
Nikita Mndoyants in his first of two finals performances, on June 6

 

Nikita Mndoyants has been one of the power players and so it was not a surprise that he picked Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, op. 16. The composer’s third concerto is somewhat showier. That is not to minimize this one, which is full of incredible technical and musical challenges. It is a moody work and was dedicated to the memory of a friend of the composer, who committed suicide.

Prokofiev had to rewrite the score after his original version was destroyed in the mayhem that followed the Russian Revolution. This second version was, according to the composer, much more advanced harmonically and rhythmically, reflecting the changes in the world of musical composition that took place in the 10 years between versions (1913 to 1923).

Photo: Robert Hart
Nikita Mndoyants in his first of two
finals performances, on June 6

Mndoyants certainly has the technique to play this monster and he delivered a clean performance with hardly any mishaps. There are some passages, even right at the beginning, that are marked mezzo forte that went right past that without even stopping at that level for a visit. The end of the first movement was spectacular, even though the orchestra covered the piano. The scherzo was very fast and light on its feet. Once again, the triple forte in the orchestra covered the piano. This also happened in the finale. This always happens in the big moments in this concerto and there isn’t a thing that anyone can do about it. Less orchestra and the effect wouldn’t be the same. More piano is a physical impossibility.

The overall impression is that Mndoyants gave a spectacular performance of all the notes. The architecture and big structural picture was lacking. Admittedly, the pianist is so busy that there is little time to bring out structural fine points, but the work must move from the first note to the last in an inevitable progression. In this performance, it felt like a collection of extremely well-played miscellaneous movements. Still, it was quite impressive and should do him well in the competition. He will have plenty of time to show another side of his playing when he plays the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 on Saturday.


◊ Links to the other finalists in this session: Fei-Fei Dong, Beatrice Rana 

 

Concerto 2: Saturday, June 8

MOZART   Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466

With Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and conductor Leonard Slatkin

 

Photo: Robert Hart
Nikita Mndoyants in the second of his finals performances at the Cliburn

 

 

Nikita Mndoyants has played an erudite and sensitive program for the entire competition, without any of the showy Liszt or Liszt-like virtuoso pieces that the others have used to demonstrate mastery. In fact, his only big venture into virtuosoville was Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition—until his impressive trip through Prokofiev’s extremely difficult Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, op. 16, in the first round of the finals. (See review above.) 

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466, was a perfect vehicle to show his musicianship and he took full advantage of it right from the elegant opening phrases. He played with an excellent finger legato and without the use of much pedal throughout the entire concerto. He only added some pedal when there were extended passages that stayed within the same chord. Where appropriate, he also added a graceful decrescendo at the ends of phrases, even when already at a very soft level.  

Since Mndoyants is also a composer, he wrote his own cadenzas. In Mozart’s day, and for a few generations afterwards, pianists frequently improvised a cadenza on the spot. Further, there are books of cadenzas for many concerti by other composers. Mndoyants’ cadenzas were harmonically adventurous for Mozart but only because of some strange twists and turns into foreign keys. What was most impressive about them is that they weren’t impressive. You expected that he would try to fit in displays of his prodigious technical abilities, since Mozart lacks the kind of virtuosic display that the Prokofiev offered. His writing was well within the range of the technical demands of the concerto and, as such, the cadenza was an excellent demonstration of his pianism, musicianship and creativity.

Mndoyants continued his simple approach with a no-fuss opening to the second movement. The final movement had spirit and his prestissimo didn’t sound rushed. He remembered that Mozart was always writing vocally based music and he let the melodies sing. In the loud section of the second movement, the orchestra overpowered him (and was considerably out of tune), but he kept to his own and refused to raise the dynamic level to meet them. This happened in the last movement as well. Occasionally, once he reached the forte level, he stayed there for too long a time without much variation. But overall, his dynamic levels were admirable and he gave the concerto an outstanding performance.

While it might have been too reserved for some, it was a moment of tranquility in a sea of overplayed pieces.

 

◊ Our profile of Nikita Mndoyants, 24, Russia

Review of Semifinal Recital and Chamber performances

◊ Review of Preliminary Recital Phase I

◊ Review of Preliminary Recital Phase II

◊ You can see quick links to the reviews of the other finalists here Thanks For Reading




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Cliburn Finals: Nikita Mndoyants
Reviews of the final concerti performances by the 24-year-old Russian in the 14th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Second performance added.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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