Fort Worth — Vladimir Feltsman will play the opening recital for the PianoTexas International Festival and Academy, which begins this weekend at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. The theme is “A Pilgrimage to Russian Music” and he is one of five internationally renowned Russian-born pianists that will appear in recitals and master classes.
In a recent phone conversation, Feltsman was not interested in talking about himself whatsoever, and abruptly dismissed that line of questioning, referring me to the Internet.
However, the gruff exterior quickly fell away, and he warmed instantly the moment I quickly switched the conversation to music. Even though we got off to a rocky start, we ended as fellow travelers, connected by the universal art of music.
Feltsman’s recital is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 9 at PepsiCo Hall on the campus of TCU. On his program is Robert Schumann’s Arabesque, Op. 18 and Kreisleriana, Op. 16; and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
TheaterJones: Bach is one of your specialties, but isn’t on the PianoTexas program.
Vladimir Feltsman: There isn’t any Bach because Tamás [Ungár, the artistic director of the festival] asked me to build a program around Russian music [the concept of the festival this year].
I notice that you are playing Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition on the second half of the program. This is very good news because it is a masterpiece that, more often or not, we hear played by less-than-stellar pianists.
Well, anything could be screwed up or enhanced in the hands of the people who play it [laughs]. Actually, I play it more often than any other work in my repertoire and have made a recording of it. So yeah, it is one of my signature pieces.
[Feltsman made one recording of the piece nearly 20 years ago. Gramophone called it “…A marvel of clarity and musicianship.”]
Was your interpretation of Pictures ever influenced by hearing the various orchestrations, most notably the splashy one by Maurice Ravel.
No. The Ravel is a brilliant piece but the original piano score is more authentic and speaks for itself.
You will also play some Robert Schumann: the Op. 18, Arabesque, and the Op. 26, Kreisleriana. How does that fit in with the Mussorgsky?
Both of these works, Kreisleriana and Pictures, are infinitely superior to whatever words I might say about them. They have to speak to the listener on their own. But the two works are somehow connected and both are great works of genius. Even the composers had some things in common, such as mental instability. Both were plagued by mental problems.
Do you collaborate with living composers?
No, I don’t much work with composers. I know some. And some works have been written for me.
Do you ever make suggestions to a composer about a new work?
No! I never make suggestions. If you make them you have to be mentally insane. Would you give suggestions to Beethoven?
[I gently mentioned Brahms’ reliance on the violinist Joseph Joachim for his violin concerto, which was probably an error. Bravely, I went on.]
Do you play much music by living composers?
Not really, but I do once and a while.
Do you play encores?
Yes, I do. I have several ready and decide at the last moment which one I will play. It depends on feeling certain energy in the hall, and then I choose.
Like playing something serene if the audience is worked up, or something spectacular if they need some energizing?
[Firmly] Absolutely no spectacular encores whatsoever.
Well, welcome to Fort Worth. This is a piano centric town because of the Cliburn influence and you will certainly find an appreciative and knowledgeable audience gathered for your concert.
Thanks you for that. I greatly admire Tamás. We are good friends and I am especially looking forward to meeting up with my colleagues.
PianoTexas Festival Concert Schedule
Distinguished Artist Recital Series
- 7:30pm June 9: Vladimir Feltsman
- 7:30pm June 12: TCU Chamber Music Concert
- 7:30pm June 16: Vladimir Ovchinnikov
- 7:30pm June 17: Anna Malikova
- 7:30pm June 23: Dmitri Alexeev
- 7:30pm June 30: Olga Kern
Concerto Concert Series
- 7:30pm June 24: Young Artists Concdrto Concert
- 7:30pm June 26: Teachers & Amateurs Concerto Concert
- 7:30pm July 1: Young Arts Concerto Concert