Victor Maslov the birth of a great artist

Tuesday 26 January 4.0 pm 

Victor Maslov 

Haydn: Sonata in B minor HobXVI/32 Allegro moderato – Menuetto – Finale:Presto

Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

A superb recital from a Victor Maslov in St Mary’s today.He has not only changed appearance with a very becoming beard but has matured into an artist with a great new temperament and something important to say.From the child like simplicity of Haydn almost Haebleresque in its chiselled porcelain precision and complete control of sound and colour.It was a model of quite extraordinary style.Every note made to speak so eloquently almost on tip toe until the last movement that erupted on to the scene like an unleashed spring.Mussorgsky I had no wish to listen to but in his hands today I was totally mesmerised by a performance from an artist that listens so carefully to every sound with a sense of balance and complete mastery that allowed him to give in Dr Mather’s words a ‘towering’ performance.A local lad whilst he perfects his studies with Dmitri Alexeev,resident in Ealing since winning the Leeds competition where he took first prize over Mitsuko Uchida and Andras Schiff.Victor has been helped by the trust set up after her death of that much loved teacher of generations in Ealing.Eileen Rowe was also the teacher of Dr Mather and his children as well as the very young Vanessa Latarche who has become head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal College of Music where Victor is a star shining brightly

The Haydn sonata No 32 is one of a group of six published privately in manuscript copies in 1776, and moves away from inspired galanterie to the vehement astringency characteristic of Haydn’s music in B minor (compare the string quartets Op 33 No 1 and Op 64 No 2). A very stately opening like a solemn procession played with an almost porcelain doll like simplicity and some beautifully subtle colours and sounds.The music box delicacy of the Menuet with some charming added embellishments that was contrasted with an almost too serious Trio.The finale :presto entered on the scene like a spring unwinding with its insistent rhythmic drive .His superb sense of style kept the left hand octaves perfectly placed above a very busy right hand and even the final double octaves were played with such grace and elegance to the final matter of fact two chords.

Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite of ten pieces (plus a recurring, varied Promenade) for piano by Modest Mussorgsky written in 1874.The suite is Mussorgsky’s most-famous piano composition, and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists based on pictures by the artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann.It was probably in 1868 that Mussorgsky first met Hartmann, not long after the latter’s return to Russia from abroad. Both men were devoted to the cause of an intrinsically Russian art and quickly became friends. They likely met in the home of the influential critic Vladimir Stasov, who followed both of their careers with interest.Hartmann’s sudden death on 4 August 1873 from an aneurysm shook Mussorgsky along with others in Russia’s art world. The loss of the artist, aged only 39, plunged the composer into deep despair and Stasov helped to organize a memorial exhibition of over 400 Hartmann works in the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in February and March 1874. Mussorgsky lent the exhibition the two pictures Hartmann had given him, and viewed the show in person. Later in June he was inspired to compose Pictures at an Exhibition, quickly completing the score in three weeks (2–22 June 1874).The work did not appear in print until 1886, five years after the composer’s death, when a not very reliable edition by the composer’s friend and colleague Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was published. It was only in 1931, marking the 50th anniversary of the composer’s death, that it was published in a scholarly edition in agreement with his manuscript.

Victor gave a very impressive performance of a work that all too often is misused as a vehicle for empty virtuosity.That was not the case today as with scrupulous attention to detail Victor brought this work back into the realms of the great works of the piano repertoire as Richter had done in the 60’s,and Horowitz had done with his own inimitable rearrangements in the 40’s.The simple statement of the opening promenade led straight to the grotesque outburst of Gnomus depicting a little gnome, clumsily running with crooked legs.There were beautiful legato octaves in the meno mosso with a very impressive crescendo.The left hand trills were mere vibrations of sound leading to the final cry and transcendental outburst of a final scale passage played by Victor exactly as the composer asks ‘velocissimo con tutta forza.’A mysterious ethereal promenade leads to ‘The old castle’ played so delicately but with a rich sound palette with magical counterpoints and a gradual disappearance.A more decisive promenade leads to the Tuileries,an avenue in the garden near the Louvre, with a swarm of children and nurses.Played with an infectious lilt and playful asides thrown in with great nonchalance.Bydlo is obviously hanging next to it and depicts a Polish cart on enormous wheels, drawn by oxen.Never slackening its constant pace but building in volume to a very impressive climax as it comes into full view.Played with overpowering weight but never any hardening of tone only to die away to barely a whisper.I had never been aware until today in Victor’s knowledgeable hands of the two staccato notes in the melodic line that gave great character to this lumbering old cart.After such fatigue a promenade made in heaven led so peacefully to the audacious chatterings of the ‘Ballet of unhatched chicks’ which is based on Hartmann’s design for the ballet Trilby where the famous variation by Petipa for the male dancer in the Le Corsair from Gerber’s score shows a painting of dancers from the ballet in costume (as fledglings emerging from the shell).In Victors hands there was such a playful sense of fun that contrasted with the beautiful bass counterpoints,that he played so pointedly,in the middle section.The grandiloquent Samuel Goldenberg burst on to the scene with the gloriously reverberant beseeching of Schmuyle.The last Promenade was played this time with much vehemence as it led to the featherlight chatterings of the market place in Limoges depicting French women quarrelling violently in the market.A tour de force of repeated notes thrown off with great ease by Victor as it led to a startling climax interrupted by the mighty entry to the catacombs.Mussorgsky’s manuscript of “Catacombs” displays two pencilled notes, in Russian: “NB – Latin text: With the dead in a dead language” and, along the right margin, “Well may it be in Latin! The creative spirit of the dead Hartmann leads me towards the skulls, invokes them; the skulls begin to glow softly.”

In fact it was just this magic glow that Victor was able to illuminate with such vibrating sounds of great delicacy with long held pedal notes of real beauty.Only to be interrupted by the ferocious Baba -Yaga where even Victor was taken aback as he threw himself into the whirlwind sounds of the chase.Only finding an oasis of peace in the middle section with a serene bass melody over a constant wave of vibrant sounds,the spell being broken ,though,by the cries of the witches flight.A tumultuous build up of double octaves suddenly was abruptly abated by the vision of the Great Gate of Kiev in all its majesty. Hartmann’s sketch was his design for city gates at Kiev in the ancient Russian massive style with a cupola shaped like a slavonic helmet.The beautiful colours of the plain chant were interrupted by the constant joyous pealing of bells.The build up to the last glorious outpouring was indeed very impressive .Victor perfectly judged the gradual build up with a tension that finally exploded with a cascade of scales leading to the sheer orchestral outpouring of glorious sounds with which he brought this ‘towering’ performance to a shattering end.A memorable performance that I ,for one,would be quite happy to listen to again.

Russian pianist Victor Maslov was praised as “one of those people who is close to all-round mastery of his repertoire” by the New York Concert Review, following his performance at Weill Recital Hall (Carnegie Hall), New York in 2010. Victor is currently studying at the Royal College of Music, London, with Prof. Dmitri Alexeev and Prof. Vanessa Latarche as a Carne Trust Junior Fellow supported by the Ruth West Scholarship. In 2020 Victor received Munster Trust Award. In 2017 he became an Eileen Rowe Musical Trust Award Holder. Victor began his studies at the Gnessin Moscow Special School of Music, where he was taught by his mother Olga Maslova. He later became a scholar of the Vladimir Spivakov International Charity Foundation and has received masterclasses from Dmitry Bashkirov for several years.
Victor has been a prize winner in several international competitions, including the First Prize at the Nikolai Rubinstein International Piano Competition (Paris 2004), the First Prize at the Musicale dell’Adriatico piano competition (Ancona 2007), Overall Prize Winner of the 47th Concertino Praga International Radio Competition for Young Musicians (2013), Two times winner of Concerto Competition (Royal College of Music, 2015, 2018), the First prize at the 2nd International Rachmaninoff Piano Competition (Moscow 2020), and the First prize at the AntwerPiano International Competition (Antwerpen 2020).
Additional prizes include Fourth Prize at the Vladimir Horowitz International Competition for Young Pianists (Kiev 2012), Second Prize at the Astana Piano Passion (Astana 2015), Second prize at Joan Chissell Schumann Prize (London 2019) and Third prize at the 6 th Umanitaria Societa Competition (Milan 2019).
He gave his concerto debut at the age of nine with the State Symphony Orchestra of Moscow and has since performed with orchestras such as RCM Symphony, RCM Philharmonic, Symphonic Orchestra of Czech Radio, Astana Opera Symphonic Orchestra, Kostroma Symphonic Orchestra, Penza State Symphonic Orchestra, State Orchestra “New Russia”. Victor has given solo performances at international music festivals across the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Turkey, Switzerland, Russia, Israel, and the USA. Venues have included Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Weil Recital hall at Carnegie Hall, Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, Great Hall of Moscow Conservatoire, Smetana Hall and Rudolfinum.

Petar Dimov -Victor Maslov- Prof.Vanessa Latarche after his performance of Rachmaninov 3rd Piano Concerto at QEH last year

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