Notes and Editorial Reviews
A highly impressive debut CD.
Stanislav Khristenko (pn)
STEINWAY & SONS 300032 (74:20)
Fantasie in C.
Fantasie in G.
Fantasien über Gedichte von Richard
36:3 Scott Noriega gave a very enthusiastic review to a disc of piano music by Ernst Krenek played by the young Ukrainian pianist Stanislav Khristenko. Now he appears on the Steinway label in more central repertoire, and he is once again very impressive.
To begin with, one must praise the imaginative programming of this disc: two favorites of German Romantic piano writing sandwiched around two rarities. Both the Zemlinsky and Bruckner have been recorded before, but rarely. I have not heard the competitive versions, but it would be difficult to imagine that they are superior to Khristenko’s poetic but firmly shaped performances.
In the Schumann and Brahms, of course, we have lots of comparison, so much so that recommending a single pianist for either would be folly. Suffice it to say that Khristenko can stand comparison with any of them. His playing of the Schumann is appropriately impulsive (this is an impulsive work); it sings and soars, but it also has sinew and tautness. What is perhaps more surprising is the poise and inner feeling this 29-year-old pianist brings to the late Brahms pieces. In both Brahms and Schumann Khristenko applies suppleness of phrasing and a genuine legato.
If you already have good recordings of the Schumann and Brahms, there is still reason to add this to your library. The Bruckner is a surprisingly successful piano piece from a composer with virtually no reputation as a piano composer. It is intimate, almost religious in nature, and pianists looking for a gentle encore for their programs would do well to add this to their repertoires. Zemlinsky’s four fantasies inspired by poems of Richard Dehmel are also lovely miniature tone poems. They are also quiet and inward looking for the most part. Steinway would have made this even better had they included the texts for the four poems, but the titles are evocative enough for the listener: “Stimme des Abends”; “Waldseligkeit”; “Liebe”; “Käferlied.” The recorded sound is very good indeed, placing the listener right in the room with the Steinway but not too close to it. The notes are helpful as well.
There are many extremely gifted young pianists in the word now, and it is difficult to predict which ones will have a long career of importance. But I will be very surprised if Stanislav Khristenko is not one of them.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
Stanislav Khristenko's first-place victory in the 2013 Cleveland International Piano Competition generated well-deserved online chatter, much of it directed to his wide-ranging portfolio of live performances posted on YouTube. His recital debut consists of Fantasies ranging from tiny jewel to epic canvas.
Beginning with a familiar epic canvas, Schumann's C major Fantasie, Khristenko organises the first movement's overflowing font of ideas and mercurial mood-swings into a fluid, flexible entity. Varied voice leadings and discreet tempo adjustments keep the central movement's obsessive dotted rhythms alive and active, while few pianists have tossed off the coda's horrifically difficult skips with such playful lightness and effortless precision. If Khristenko's rubato in the lyrical finale arguably lacks the seasoned simplicity of Horowitz, Fiorentino or, among recent younger contenders, Andreas Haefliger, his gorgeous textural contouring conveys the impression that the leisurely arpeggiated left-hand writing and the long right-hand cantabiles emerge from separate instruments, dead-pianist style (and that's a compliment).
Bruckner's obscure three-minute Fantasie in G major consists of a modest chordal accompaniment supporting a single-note melody that quickly strays from the home key. Khristenko's is the best of this unassuming little gem's few commercial recordings. He milks the expressive possibilities of Zemlinsky's early Op 9 Fantasien to more subjective and probing effect than in Silke Avenhaus's relatively straighter Naxos traversal. Khristenko's sparse pedalling and linear cogency in the Brahms Op 116 Pieces convince more than his tendency towards slow tempi and overly stretched-out, self-conscious phrasing, save for the energetic and direct D minor closer. Succinct, informative booklet-notes and balanced, realistic engineering.
-- Jed Distler Gramophone [12/2014 ]
Ukrainian pianist Stanislav Khristenko broke through to American audiences as the winner of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, and it is heartening to see him capitalize on that triumph not with a splashy performance of standard concerto repertoire but with this thoughtful recital. Its title can be taken two ways: the four works on the program are a collection of fantasies, but also an exploration of the concept as it developed in the late 19th century. Khristenko is a rather quiet pianist with a strong ability to sustain works that develop in a complex, organic way. He bookends the program with two of these, the Schumann Fantasie in C major, Op. 17, and the extremely intricate Fantasies, Op. 116, of Brahms. One might ask what the iron motivic logic of these works, which appealed so much to Schoenberg, Webern, and company, has to do with fantasy, but Khristenko gives them a mysterious mood and brings out the unusual melodic shapes that set the development in motion. In between are two rarely played works, each of them delightful. Anton Bruckner's Fantasie in G major, one of very few keyboard pieces he wrote, is an early work that presents the composer's expansive melody in miniature. And Alexander Zemlinsky's Fantasies on Poems by Richard Dehmel, another figure beloved by Schoenberg, are songs without words for the end of the century, dreamy and dense explorations of the mood of the four poems. It might have been nice to have the texts of these, but otherwise the presentation and engineering live up to the high standards that have been set by the Steinway & Sons label. Highly recommended.
– James Manheim, All Music Guide
"This assemblage of keyboard fantasies (rec. 20-22 January 2014) exemplifies Khristenko’s penchant for this form of musical expression, since it allows him great personal freedom in the course of displaying a brilliant technique and refined sensitivity to the Romantic composers he champions. Khristenko opens grandly, with a dynamic performance of Schumann’s 1836 Fantasie in C Major... Khristenko captures the opening movement’s sense of inflamed urgency, a mixture of truncated sonata-form interspersed with recitatativo and declamatory figures... Liquid clarity and muscular transparency have marked each measure of Khristenko’s realization, as much a tribute to engineer Daniel Shores of the pianist’s Steinway Model D as to Khristenko’s sympathetic interpretative gifts. Anton Bruckner hardly bears any reputation as a piano composer, but his 1868 Fantasie in G Major, somewhat reminiscent of the music of Grieg, communicates a tender piety whose scale provides a charming relief to those more ambitious expressions in symphonic form. The four Fantasies on Poems by Richard Dehmel (1898) of Alexander Zemlinsky expressively capture a salon poignancy in post-Romantic terms that combine elements of Brahms, Grieg, and exploratory Richard Strauss... Khristenko concludes with what have become the fairly ubiquitous Fantasien, Op. 116 of Johannes Brahms (1892). Except for the bolder, more resonant sonics, Khristenko’s opening Capriccio in D Minor reminds of Gieseking’s EMI version, plastic and impassioned at once... The mesmerizingly gentle but urgent E Minor Intermezzo receives from Khristenko a rocking motion that eventually lulls us across its slur lines into an enchanted garden... The final D Minor Capriccio makes a hectic tour de force for Khristenko, a virtual war of disparate elements whose surrounding arpeggios also build upon “rainy”and “stormy” emotions, but more in the tragic mode of Schubert." – Gary Lemco, Audiophile Audition
"Schumann’s Fantasie is an emotionally charged piece with deliberate echoes of and quotations from Beethoven (it was intended to help raise funds for a monument to Beethoven in his birthplace, Bonn). It is difficult to sustain for its half-hour length, but Khristenko has taken its measure and manages a fine balance between its technical complexity and its emotional heart. Similarly, Brahms’ late and complex Fantasien, Op. 116, look back to Beethoven in their use of small motivic fragments as building blocks of grander structures – and here, too, Khristenko approaches the work with sensitivity as well as the necessary virtuosity in its three Capriccio segments. The Fantasien are seven miniatures that collectively produce an impact well beyond their individual elements, and Khristenko manages to communicate this through attention focused on the individual pieces’ characteristics while never losing sight of Brahms’ overall structure. This is a particularly impressive performance for a 29-year-old pianist: Schumann’s Fantasie was written when the composer was 26, and many of its sentiments are those of a young and somewhat headstrong man; but the Brahms Fantasien is a work of that composer’s late life, and what Brahms’ communicates here is a level of complexity that also sums up many of his pianistic techniques and emotional concerns. It says much for Khristenko’s skill that he can make both these very different works so effective, each in its own way. And the two other pieces on this CD are fascinating discoveries. Bruckner’s Fantasie is a brief, quiet and lyrical work that shows a little-noticed side of the composer. And Alexander Zemlinsky’s Fantasien über Gedichte von Richard Dehmel is fascinating. This is a set of four movements inspired by works written by the same poet whose Verklärte Nacht led to Schoenberg’s masterful 1899 string sextet. Zemlinsky’s piano work was written a year earlier and in more distinctly Romantic (indeed, Brahmsian) style. The music itself is poetic, limpid and often quiet, and Khristenko performs it with the combination of skill and sensitivity that he displays throughout this highly impressive debut CD." – Infodad.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Featured Sound Samples
Fantasie in C major, Op.17 (Schumann): I. Durchaus phantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutragen
Fantasien (Zemlinsky): III. Liebe
Fantasien, Op. 116 (Brahms): 3. Capriccio in G minor
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