A young Russian pianist named Gleb Ivanov was in Washington this week, to play a concert on October 11 in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, as part of the Young Concert Artists Series. I feel bad that I missed it -- Tuesday being an infrequent concert-going day for me -- especially now that I am reading the reviews. While it's true that Joseph McLellan rarely writes anything negative, he did heap praise on the pianist in his review (Russian Gleb Ivanov: Beyond Loud and Fast, October 13) for the Washington Post:
The singing metaphor was particularly apt for the most distinctive and successful part of the program -- four transcriptions of vocal music that made the audience forget for a while that the piano is, essentially, a percussion instrument. The works were Rachmaninoff's magnificent Vocalise and three songs by Schubert in Liszt transcriptions: "Auf dem Wasser zu Singen," "Der Erlkonig" and "Standchen." They are well contrasted in style and atmosphere, and Ivanov's playing brought out the character of each with limpid tone and phrasing that evoked a singing voice.On the other hand, T. L. Ponick's review (Ivanov rattles rafters to audience's delight, October 13) for the Washington Times played up the flashy, virtuosic side of Ivanov's playing:
After opening his program with a workmanlike reading of Haydn's Sonata in E-flat major (Hob. XVI: 52) and a somewhat overpedaled pair of Chopin miniatures [...] he attacked the piano, heartily performing stuff that really interested him, such as Samuel Barber's Sonata, Op. 26. Written for Vladimir Horowitz, this mid-20th-century work is loaded with massive, spiky energy that, while retaining a discernible tonal base, forays frequently into savage atonality. Eerily like the ghost of Mr. Horowitz, Mr. Ivanov engulfed the keyboard and the Barber, rattling the Terrace's rafters -- particularly in the wicked final "Fuga" -- and thrilling an audience generally not accustomed to embracing such thorny music. After a brief and welcome pause for a tastefully executed transcription of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise," Mr. Ivanov gave a hearty reading to a trio of Schubert lieders as transcribed by Franz Liszt. This was only a warmup for Liszt's ridiculously challenging "Fantasia quasi sonata" after Dante, taken from the composer's "Annees de pelerinage" Book II."A trio of Schubert lieders" is rather amusing Germenglish, in its double plural ("songses"). This just goes to show you that listening to music -- the work of critics -- is highly subjective. Ponick goes on to deprecate the very type of playing that McLellan praised, advising that "Mr. Ivanov should devote more care and feeding [sic--probably meant feeling] to the less showy parts of the repertoire." You can't please all of the critics all of the time.