Mikhail Kazakevich at The Red Hedgehog

A recital including selections from Schumann’s Intermezzos, Op.4 and Noveletten, Op.21, Brahms’s Rhapsody in G minor Op.79 and selections from his Pieces, Opp.116 & 118, transcriptions by Liszt of Lieder by Schubert and Schumann, and Wagner (the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde), and transcriptions by Mikhail Kazakevich of Mahler (from Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen)

Mikhail Kazakevich (piano)

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 29 September, 2007
Venue: The Red Hedgehog, Highgate, London N6

Pianist Mikhail Kazakevich. Photograph: Keith SaundersThis was a splendid start to The Red Hedgehog’s second season. A major pianist, Mikhail Kazakevich, made music in the cosy, friendly atmosphere of this intimate performing space with an exemplary acoustic.

The opening bars of the first of Schumann’s Intermezzos declared the tempestuous majesty of Mikhail Kazakevich’s art. When he hit the notes, the piano almost shook with the pounding he gave it; when he caressed the notes, the piano almost melted. Florestan was present. So was Eusebius.

This was some of the most alive performing of Schumann I have heard. Many performances meander in aimless effusion – with the occasional, brusque change of mood as a rude, crude interruption. Kazakevich played each Intermezzo as a vibrant whole; these romances had dynamic coherence as a legitimate musical form. He not only brought out different sides of Schumann’s temperament vividly and dramatically but also integrated them into a living, animated organism. We could picture this young man, ardent for living his life fully and variedly. The infinitely tender and elegiac trio in the Second Intermezzo was a marvel. The jerky, commanding bursts of energy were spurs to hectic action. To inter-relate Schumann’s wildly disparate characteristics in this way is no mean feat.

The power and ardour of Brahms’s pieces came as no surprise, then, following on from the Schumann excitement. Kazakevich gave these rough, passionate statements a forceful thrust, with burning moments of fierce beauty: playing with great force, with blazing energy and more relaxed repose, animated in the heat of battle and the warmth of ardour. The pieces range from the dynamic gruffness of the G minor Rhapsody to the gentle but nevertheless manly lyricism of the Intermezzos in E (from Opus 116) and A (Opus 118).

A potpourri of Liszt transcriptions followed. One could appreciate the delight pianists take in having versions of well-known and well-loved melodies from Schumann and Schubert songs to themselves. The ‘Liebestod’ sat rather oddly in this company. The piano lacks Wagner’s orchestral colour, of course, and could not achieve the sustained surge of sound or the swelling volume essential to this piece of operatic ardour. The final, shimmering ripples were intense, but did not catch the breath of the listener.

Kazakevich’s own transcriptions of Mahler were vigorous and compelling. The fishes have never poked their snouts out of the water, listening to St Anthony, so perkily. The occasional, flamboyant discord was marked, bringing Mahler into the 20th-century. Likewise, the adolescent anguish of the extract from “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” was as grinding as it should be.

  • The Red Hedgehog
  • The Red Hedgehog is situated at 255-257 Archway Road, Highgate, London, N6 5BS
  • Box Office: 020 8348 5050

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