Probably the most poignant program in the history of PianoTexas was played Sunday evening in TCU’s PepsiCo Recital Hall, when Vadym Kholodenko gave his first public performance in Fort Worth since the tragic deaths of his two daughters.
A much larger audience than is usual for PianoTexas greeted him warmly and gave him standing ovations at both the intermission and at the end of his recital. A significant number of pianists — professional, amateur and teachers — joined in the tribute.
Kholodenko rewarded them with an often introspective program that seemed fitting. His exceptional performances were reminiscent of those he played to win the 2013 Cliburn Competition gold medal.
In fact, the extraordinary subtlety of his playing — his lyric impulse, attention to details of interpretation and unfailing good taste — arguably put him in the same league as a giant of the piano such as Radu Lupu.
The first half of his recital was devoted to two sets of pieces by Schumann: Night Pieces, Op. 23, and Humoreske, Op. 20. These seemed almost magical in their effect. They were mostly quiet and atmospheric and magnetic in pulling the audience into their spell.
Kholodenko deserves credit for playing these exceptional works, which generally yield to more familiar masterpieces on recital programs.
The second half of the recital was devoted to Liszt. Though the pieces were slightly more virtuosic in some ways than the Schumann, Kholodenko found subtleties and beauty in them and again cast a spell. These included three works from Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage and the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 19.
At the end of his remarkable program, Kholodenko played two encores: a Rachmaninoff arrangement of a Tchaikovsky lullaby and a Scriabin prelude.
The pianist’s estranged wife was indicted last week on capital murder charges in connection with the deaths of their two young daughters.