HAYDN: Sonata No. 47 in B minor. BRAHMS: Variations on a Theme by Paganini (Books I & II). SCRIABIN: Sonata No. 5 in F-sharp, Op. 53. Etude in D-sharp minor, Op. 8 No. 12. PROKOFIEV: Sonata No. 6 in A, Op. 82. Sonata No. 7 in B-flat, Op. 83. MENDELSSOHN: Wedding March and Variations from A Midsummer Night's Dream (arr. Liszt/Horowitz)
Alexander Gavrylyuk, pianist
VAI DVD VIDEO 4357 TT: 112 min.

MUSSORGSKY: Pictures at an Exhibition. PROKOFIEV: Sonata No. 6 in A, Op. 82.
Ilya Itin, pianist
VAI DVD VIDEO 4365 TT: 68 min.

VAN CLIBURN - Legendary Visions
A DVD video documentary narrated by Dan Rather, and a CD of music of Schumann, Chopin, Debussy, Brahms and Rachmaninoff
RCA RED SEAL DVD VIDEO 57907 TT: 58:17 & 52:02 (CD)

Alexander Gavrylyuk, born in 1984 in Ukraine, winner of many competitions including the International Competition in memory of Vladimir Horowitz, is an astounding pianist. VAI's DVD was recorded May 13 and 15, 2005 at the Lincoln Theater, Miami Beach, Florida, and, remarkably, is unedited. Gavrylyuk is rather reserved at the keyboard and his facial expressions are undemonstrative as he brilliantly and spectacularly plays some of the most demanding knuckle-busters: Brahms' Paganini Variations, Prokofiev's Sixth and Seventh sonatas, and the Liszt-Horowitz arrangement of the Wedding March from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream. His precise, warm tone is heard to great advantage in Haydn's Sonata No. 47 and Chopin's Etude, Op. 25 No. 7, and there are more pianistic fireworks in the two Scriabin pieces. Stereo sound is excellent, although the ten-minute interview with Gavrylyuk is marred by overly loud piano sound in the background.

Russian-born pianist Ilya Itin has won many international prizes, and rightly so. On his video, Itin plays two masterpieces of the Russian repertory, Mussorgsky's Pictures and Prokofiev's Sonata No. 6, both recorded minus audience in Amaturo Theater, Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, June 8, 2005. The engineer was Peter McGrath and he did a fine job with the stereo sound. Pictures is given a rather gentle overly introspective performance—even Baba Yaga and Great Gate seem rather understated. In the ten-minute rather boring interview which is listed as a "bonus," Itin dodges questions as to whether or not he played exactly what Mussorgsky wrote—and he surely does not in the final pages, although his version is much removed from Horowitz's over-the-top arrangement. It's a pleasure to watch Itim perform. He is a model of control and command totally without the phony histrionics displayed by many of today's younger performers. It's odd more music isn't on the DVD, the only aspect of this issue that disappoints.

Van Cliburn's disk is in RCA's Legendary Visions series which features a DVD and a CD. This DVD is a documentary written and co-produced by David Daniel originally televised on A&E's Biography series, with narration by Dan Rather, although no production date is given. The presentation is as adulatory as one would expect, focusing on Cliburn's tremendous acclaim after he won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958, including many excerpts from televised performances. We have a bit of his early life and training, comments by fellow artists including Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne and Roberta Peters, and mention that in 1978 he decided to take a "sabbatitcal" which lasted many years. Nothing is said of his disasterous attempt at a comeback several years ago when he was planning a lengthy series of concerts with a pickup orchestra playing the two concertos that brought him greatest fame: Tchaikovsky One and Rachmaninoff Three, only to have to cancel the tour after the first two disasterous performances. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite get through either work—a tragic ending to what started out as a spectacular career. Surprisingly, nothing is said about the important Cliburn Piano Competition which he began in 1962. Admirers of the pianist will enjoy what is there, but the CD, is a reissue of recordings already available and RCA is rather stingy with content (52:02).

R.E.B. (April 2006)