June 30th, 2010
“A Haydn Sonata Accented With Ingenuity.
Less than a month after winning first prize in the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition in Brussels, the young Russian Denis Kozhukhin … gave formidable, freshly considered accounts of two challenging staples: Schumann’s ‘Symphonic Études’ and Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition.’ yet it was his sensitive playing of a much more modest work — Haydn’s Sonata in E flat (Hob. XVI:49), which opened the program — that left the strongest impression of Mr. Kozhukhin’s gifts and potential.
He took a genial, unrushed approach to the opening Allegro, allowing ample time for melodic phrases to breathe. Trills and turns were dispatched with lyrical grace; chords were voiced to bring out harmonic nuances. Haydn plays a game near the end of the first movement, which seems about to stop several times. Mr. Kozhukhin did not overdo the humor, choosing instead to highlight the musical ingenuity in each turn of phrase. He captured the Beethovenian grandeur of the pensive slow movement and played the finale, a playful homage to a courtly minuet, with crisp articulation and high spirits.
Mr. Kozhukhin already has all the technique he will ever need. His first teachers were his parents. At 14 he graduated from a Russian conservatory and moved to Madrid to further his studies and broaden his outlook. Lanky and relaxed, with long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail, he looked completely comfortable at the piano. He began the Schumann without taking a break after the Haydn, without even waiting for latecomers to settle into their seats.
Even in the most hypercharged of the études, which abound in leaping chords and rippling, intricate passagework, Mr. Kozhukhin played commandingly. He set a bracing tempo in the final march yet managed to bring out chromatic details and inner voices.
After ‘Pictures’, he played that Ligeti étude as an encore, thrillingly.”
– New York Times