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Pianist Alexander Kobrin Delights with Compelling Performance

Posted 12:37pm on Monday, Jun. 28, 2010

I was not in town in 2005 when Alexander Kobrin won the gold medal at the Twelfth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. When the Russian played a solo recital Sunday at PepsiCo Recital Hall, I heard what made him the favorite — a lush piano tone full of shadings; nuanced yet articulate phrasing; and a grave sensitivity which clearly balanced the music’s architecture and his own interpretive designs.

Kobrin, 29, played mainstay classics by Haydn, Mozart and Rachmaninoff with beautiful intensity and natural feeling on Sunday. His concert concluded the Distinguished Artist Series of recitals at Piano Texas, the 25-day music training festival which concluded Tuesday.

Haydn’s Sonata in C major (Hob. 16/48) began with introspective playing of pastel softness. The second movement featured crisp, unassuming gaiety and wonderful perspective between melody and accompanying figures.

In Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor (K. 475) Kobrin contrasted quiet lyrical sections with more agitated ones. Mozart’s three-movement Sonata in c minor (K. 457) followed without pause. Kobrin precisely dictated the upward-striding theme of the first movement, and then deftly worked through its repetitions and imitations. The moonlit tones of the lyric Adagio unfolded in an untroubled tempo; the quick-time finale presented wafting chimed melodies answered with wind-whipped phrases.

The second half was all-Rachmaninoff. Kobrin brought poetic intensity to the first four pieces (of six) in the daunting Moments musicaux. Judicious pedal brought a dreamy sheen to the Andantino; the Allegretto peaked in chromatic rushes and an intense, noble sound.

The sad, low melody of Andante cantabile was almost the blues, its sighing motif growing in candor and intense coloration. Roiling outbursts gave menacing brilliance to the Presto.

Kobrin worked assiduously through the Variations on a theme by Corelli, always displaying an assured and elegant technique. Pliant pacing and vigorous virtuosity illuminated the 20 variations, each contrasting in style, emotion and rhythmic underpinning. Two pieces from Schumann’s Fantasiestucke ("Why" and "In the Night") played as encores brought the most-satisfying program to a close.

Kobrin’s recital made me wish I’d been around to hear his gold-medal performances four years ago.

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