Vadym Kholodenko, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra continued their journey through the piano concertos of Sergei Prokofiev on Friday evening. This time it was the sounds of the fourth and first concertos that resounded in Bass Hall.
The cycle, which will include all five of the composer’s works for piano and orchestra, will eventually be released as an album on the Harmonia Mundi label.
For local audiences, the series of live performances introduces music that is not particularly well known. Everybody knows the third concerto, which often appears in the final phase of the Van Cliburn Competition (which Kholodenko won in 2013). But the third by far outpaces the other concertos in popularity, so Friday’s duo was new to many in the audience.
The fourth concerto is the most unusual of Prokofiev’s works in the form. It was written for the left hand alone. Those familiar with music history will immediately think of Paul Wittgenstein, the Austrian pianist who lost his right arm in combat during World War I. He commissioned a number of works for his remaining hand and arm, the most famous of which is Ravel’s.
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Kholodenko, Harth-Bedoya and colleagues made a compelling case for the fourth concerto. Historically, Wittgenstein rejected the work, but it’s hard to understand why. The concerto is full of pianistic derring-do, which Kholodenko, one of the most accomplished of the Cliburn winners, easily mastered. At no time was there a sense that the missing hand was a problem. The pianist has plenty of opportunities for technical showmanship, but the work also has lyric beauty, especially in its lovely second movement, and abounds in energy and playfulness.
The first concerto was a student work, written when Prokofiev was in his early 20s, but it is a powerful statement of his mastery. It resembles the fourth concerto in its energy and sense of playfulness, and it provided opportunities for virtuosity that Kholodenko took advantage of.
One other work was on Friday’s program, and it was a rarity: Arnold Schoenberg’s orchestration of Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor. An early deadline pushed me toward the exit, but I was able to stay long enough to hear that Schoenberg treated the music of the older master with respect and musical acumen. This was powerful stuff.