Alexander Malofeev, young and acclaimed Russian pianist, brings a rare and difficult program to Keyboard Concerts. Expect dazzling artistry.
And what were you doing when you were 22?
Alexander Malofeev is already a seasoned performer at that age. The Russia-born pianist has performed in many of the world’s great concert halls, including the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Herkulessaal in Munich, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. At 13, he won the 2014 International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians, thus exploding on the classical music scene.
And now he’s coming to Fresno. Not to perform for the first time – but for the second. That’s right, he’s already such a veteran that he belongs to the Two-Time Keyboard Concerts Club.
“Artistically, I think we’ll be in for a treat,” says Andreas Werz, artistic director of the Philip Lorenz International Keyboard Concerts series. Malofeev performs at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29, at the Fresno State Concert Hall.
Malofeev joins a long line of his countrymen in greatness at the piano. (“The latest phenomenon of the Russian piano school,” declared one Italian critic.) The world is a far more connected place than it used to be, and variations in national piano styles have diminished greatly over the past, say, 40 years. But there’s still a nod to Russian traits in Malofeev’s playing, Werz says.
“The Russians still have that characteristic of a full, rich, tone, passionate playing, total technical mastery.”
Between Malofeev’s performance two years ago for Keyboard and now, he appears to have moved to Berlin, Werz says, although Malofeev gives no reason for the move on his website.
Malofeev’s appearance this season follows Emanuel Ax, who performed for the Keyboard series earlier this month. The juxtaposition of the two provides some insights both into the character of the series and the nature of solo piano. At 74, the world-renowned Ax brings decades of technique and artistry to his playing. This is a field in which, unlike athletics, say, you can just keep getting better as you get older.
However, youth and vigor can be important as well. Someone like Malofeev can bring a surprisingly mature sound to the keyboard, Werz says.
“It’s sometimes amazing what these young people show in terms of maturity. They play as if they’ve played for a long time,” he says.
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As Malofeev becomes even better known, he might reach the point where he’s too expensive to bring in for a smaller solo piano series such as Keyboard Concerts. (Werz points to Daniil Trifonov, another Russian pianist who visited the Keyboard series, as someone whose career path might be possible for Malofeev to follow.) But that’s one of the joys of the series. Werz prides himself on nabbing well-known names before they break through to superstardom, and then relying on older superstars such as Ax who remain loyal to the series to offer the other end of the spectrum.
Malofeev will play a distinctive program filled with obscure and rare pieces. The best known tune is Wagner’s overture to “Tannhauser,” transcribed by Listz. It’s only the second time in Werz’s 33 years as artistic director that a Keyboard artist has performed the selection, which is known as “devilishly difficult,” he says.
Other pieces include Handel’s Suite in B-flat major and a piano transcription of J.S. Bach’s Organ Concerto in A minor. Purcell, Muffat and Weinberg are among the other composers represented.
“Young people are fantastically creative – creative in their programming and creative in their interpretive choices,” Werz says.