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Ten years ago Alexander Gavrylyuk, aged 20, created a sensation at the Miami International Piano Festival with a stunning recital issued on CD and DVD soon after. On the programme were sonatas by Prokofiev and Scriabin, Mendelssohn-Liszt-Horowitz’s Wedding March and Brahms’s Paganini Variations. Four years later, Gavrylyuk recorded all five piano concertos by Prokofiev live in concert with conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy in just over a fortnight. Recently he has played all the Rachmaninov concertos (including the Rhapsody) in two evenings.

A daredevil virtuoso? That and more: Gavrylyuk with his latest CD returns to Brahms, with ‘fingers of steel, the courage of a lion and a heart of burning lava’ (the requirements James Huneker considered necessary for playing these variations). His interpretation is comparable to the greatest recordings in the catalogue: Anda, Katchen, Michelangeli…

Gavrylyuk’s unique tonal palette, with the subtlest shadings, brings together poetry and profoundness. He certainly takes time in the slow pieces, while always moving forward. He is neither self-indulgent nor sentimental, and ever mindful of the structure. The pianist thus creates a narration rich in symphonic allure.

His Liszt is similarly a celebration of the highest standards imaginable. Unfortunately, neither the overall quality of the recording nor of the piano itself do justice to Gavrylyuk’s performance: this artist deserves much better.

ERIC SCHOONES Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing