By Lawrence Budmen 

The opening concert of the Miami International Piano Festival’s Discovery Series featured the impressive Ukrainian firebrand Alexander Gavrylyuk, Gold Medal Winner of Israel’s Artur Rubinstein Competition, on Friday night at the Lincoln Theater. How Gavrylyuk would fare in the mainstream romantic piano repertoire of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, or Schumann remains to be seen but, in the show stopping pyrotechnical challenges of scores by Brahms, Scriabin, and Prokofiev, he proved to be formidable. His awesome technique is matched by the ability to bring artistic insight and character to every musical phrase. 

Gavrylyuk’s opening traversal of Haydn’s Sonata in B Minor was rather cool and cerebral for two movements. A fiery version of the concluding Presto was an apt prelude to a supercharged reading of Brahms’s Paganini Variations. This daunting work was rendered with torrents of prodigious virtuosity and interpretive abandon. Gavrylyuk commanded a remarkable dynamic range. Extremes of volume at both ends and wide ranging keyboard leaps were conjured up with dizzying magic. Yet the pianist did not neglect the music’s introspective side. The pearly tones of the Chopinesque variation gave indication of a pianistic poet. Gavrylyuk’s rapid fire articulation of the final variation was virtuosic indeed. 

Gavrylyuk evoked the ecstatic frenzy of Scriabin’s Sonata No.5 with an endless rainbow of cascading colors and tonal hues. The hand crossings and sheer speed of the coda held no terrors for this pianist. Gavrylyuk turned up the emotional heat to the artistic boiling point. He vividly conveyed the visionary mysticism of Scriabin’s tonally ambiguous musical language. For sheer pianistic bravura Gavrylyuk’s Scriabin evoked memories of such legends as Horowitz and Richter.

Gavrylyuk intense, fierce approach to Prokofiev’s wartime Sonata No.6 brought home the terror in the frighteningly relentless chords in the opening Allegro and the grim march of the second movement. Yet the waltz was darkly romantic and intoxicating in Gavrylyuk’s rich, vibrant sonorities. He brought devilish fury to the final Vivace, daringly taken at an unbelievably breakneck tempo. In a stunning encore Gavrylyuk unleashed a firestorm with Liszt’s roulades on Mendelssohn’s Wedding March, played with astounding tonal clarity and pianistic thunder.

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