Friday was V-Day.
The victory belonged to Volodymyr Vynnytsky, a remarkable — and local! — pianist, perhaps Charleston’s best kept musical pseudo-secret.
He played the very famous Piano Concerto No. 1 by Tchaikovsky sort of like Michael Jordan plays basketball or Lawrence Olivier delivers a Shakespearian monologue: He just does it, and it seems, well, not effortless exactly, but certainly not terribly effortful either.
Vynnytsky told me he and concertmaster Yuriy Bekker chose the piece for its popular appeal. At the conclusion of the exciting and bombastic “molto maestoso” first movement — when the audience jumped to its feet unable to restrain their applause — I could understand the choice.
The slower, lyrical second movement highlighted Vynnytsky’s equally astonishing ability to play with a shimmering, precise and light touch. But even the “andantino semplice” was designed for show; the glitter gave way to melodic sparks, then fireworks, before the movement ended with graceful phrasing, conducted with sensitivity by David Lockington.
The third movement, marked “allegro con fuoco” (fast and fiery), was back to speed. Lockington and Vynnytsky took it at a particularly fast clip, arguably too fast; the clever three-against-two pattern and some of the fluttering fingerwork were obscured by the sheer flash and flight.
But it sure was exciting. Vynnytsky’s technique is impeccable — good posture, relaxed hands. No wonder he can play so brilliantly. The experience was a bit like listening to a child virtuoso who doesn’t fully grasp the extent of his own talent. One looks for a few nerves in a pianist tackling the Tchaikovsky — all those stretched octaves, furious arpeggios up and down the keyboard, bold melodies that alternate between left and right hands — but Vynnytsky seemed to work his magic as if it were just one moment in a busy day, and maybe not the most important moment.
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks concert began with Gabriel Faure’s “Pelleas et Melisande Suite,” a luminous choice. It was a gentle and lovely start, performed beautifully thanks in large part to Lockington’s capable leadership.
The second half was devoted to more Russian music: selections from Prokofiev’s three “Romeo and Juliet” suites. Lockington opted for a full-throated rendition, admirable played by an enlarged orchestra. The conductor’s control and attention to detail inspired the orchestra to offer a particularly heartfelt and colorful performance of a Russian masterpiece.
Tonight, at the Sottile Theatre, they do it all over again.
Reach Adam Parker at 937-5902. Follow him at www.facebook.com/aparkerwriter.