Moutouzkine at PYPA: Many pianists in one, all intriguing


A paradox, perhaps, but it’s a significant marker of individualism that every time Alexandre Moutouzkine appears, he sounds like a slightly different pianist.

Aug 16
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A paradox, perhaps, but it’s a significant marker of individualism that every time Alexandre Moutouzkine appears, he sounds like a slightly different pianist. The basic character of his playing morphed even in a single recital, Thursday night, part of the Philadelphia Young Pianists’ Academy (PYPA).

Many listeners came to know Moutouzkine through his affiliation with Astral Artists, for which he devised in 2011 an unusually inventive live transcription of Stravinsky’s The Firebird as the sound track to the animated short Who Stole the Mona Lisa?

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Moutouzkine at PYPA: Many pianists in one, all intriguing

By Peter Dobrin, Inquirer Music Critic

POSTED: August 16, 2015

A paradox, perhaps, but it’s a significant marker of individualism that every time Alexandre Moutouzkine appears, he sounds like a slightly different pianist. The basic character of his playing morphed even in a single recital, Thursday night, part of the Philadelphia Young Pianists’ Academy (PYPA).

Many listeners came to know Moutouzkine through his affiliation with Astral Artists, for which he devised in 2011 an unusually inventive live transcription of Stravinsky’s The Firebird as the sound track to the animated short Who Stole the Mona Lisa?

He brought an orchestrator’s fine ear Thursday night to Rachmaninoff’s Études-Tableaux, Op. 39. In the “No. 2 in A Minor,” which shares something with the composer’s The Isle of the Dead even beyond the appearance of the dies irae, Moutouzkine shone a variety of lights behind certain phrases and notes, simultaneously with an unusual degree of differentiation. In the “No. 6 in A Minor,” he invoked Liszt in the growling, repeated opening figure. Much of this music is overwrought, and Moutouzkine, though passionate, is not prone to brutality or exaggeration. Clarity and brilliance propelled the last etude, “No. 9 in D Major,” gathering intensity to a rather thrillingly paced last few bars.

That Moutouzkine was able to do what he did on the instrument at his disposal was a trick in itself. Rather than the usual Steinway the Curtis Institute keeps on the stage of Field Concert Hall, PYPA brought in a Yamaha that was limited in its colors and generally of a less-than-pleasant sound.

Better served by the instrument were the less varied demands of Mozart’s Sonata in B Flat Major, K. 281. Moutouzkine found a spirited view of the piece through elegant ornamentation and attention to specific kinds of articulation. Dallapiccola’s Sonatina Canonica in E Flat Major on Caprices of Niccolò Paganini was a welcome oddity, with its opening music-box movement a mix of charming and spooky, and an occasional Stravinskylike turn of phrase.

If assembling the order of pieces has much to do with emotional impact, Moutouzkine’s opener was a master stroke. Rachmaninoff’s transcription – a rewriting, really – of Bach’s Partita in E Major for Violin is an essay on three types of grandness, and here Moutouzkine’s blend of clarity and excited passion were especially flattering to the music. The opening brilliance, and stately, undeniably pianistic contrapuntal layering of the second and third movements made complexity not only a virtue, but also a platform for great joy. Bach is hard to improve on, but here the source, revisionist, and interpreter reinforced one another’s strengths across the centuries.