Monday, January 20, 2014

Roman and Dmitri Krasnovsky in an all-Bach program at the Jerusalem Redeemer Church

One of the events of the 2013-2014 Israel Organ Festival was an all-J.S.Bach recital by Roman  Krasnovsky (organ) and Dmitri Krasnovsky (flute). The event took place on January 18th 2014 at the Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem, drawing members of the Israel Organ Association, tourists and local music-lovers. Offering words of welcome, Gunther Martin Goettsche, organist and musical director of the church, reminded the audience that the late mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek had referred to the Redeemer Church as the “church where there is music”. Gerard Levi, president of the Israel Organ Association, introduced Roman Krasnovsky and spoke of the excellence of the Redeemer Church's Schuke organ.

Born in Donetsk (Ukraine) in 1955, Roman Krasnovsky studied piano and organ in the Ukraine, with post-graduate studies in organ with Prof. Leo Kremer (Germany) and other organists in Austria. As a soloist, he has performed internationally on some of the world’s finest organs. He also plays the harpsichord. His own compositions include three symphonies. In 1990 he immigrated to Israel, presently being active in the musical life in Carmiel, where he resides. His son Dmitri Krasnovsky, born in 2000, began learning the flute at age 10 and began performing after a year of study. He appears with his father in concerts throughout Europe and took first place in the 2012 American Protégé International Flute Competition.

Roman Krasnovsky opened with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in c minor BWV 546, the pieces coming from two different periods: the 5-part fugue from the composer’s Weimar period (1708-1717) and the prelude written in 1723 or later. Krasnovsky’s reading of the prelude was noble, rich and vivid, its uplifting interweaving of melodic lines almost choral in approach. In the fugue, the artist chose a more muted registration, creating an intimate mood which spiraled via more strident timbres into the ultimate splendor characteristic of Bach’s organ music.

J.S.Bach’s Canonic Variations on “Von Himmel hoch da komm’ ich her” (From Heaven Above to Earth I come) BWV 769, a late work, were written after his admission to Lorenz Mizler’s Corresponding Society of Musical Sciences in the spring of 1747. (Telemann and Händel were also members). Not only did the work fulfill the category of a “scientific piece”, it also gave the composer an opportunity to indulge in his predilection for canonic writing, to be taken to its highest artistry in “The Art of Fugue” and the “Musical Offering”. Krasnovsky chose a bell-like registration to introduce the Christmas hymn, its falling seconds representing the content of the verbal text. Krasnovsky’s use of different registrations was gregarious - from brassy to reedy timbres, from mellow to mutation stops, furnishing the melody with accompanying parallel octave and fifth overtones (at times sounding bi-tonal). Providing a solid basis for all these coloristic effects were the artist’s exacting rhythm and transparency of texture, not lost in the work’s intricate complexity.

“Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr” (Alone to God on high be honour) BWV 662, one of the Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes prepared by Bach in the last decade of his life, is one of the most ornate of the Leipzig chorales. In a calm and distinctive manner, Krasnovsky addressed its huge amount of ornamentation with the angels’ message expressed in the florid soprano chorale melody hovering high above all the other more earthly-anchored voices; the soprano- and contrapuntal middle voices were well cushioned in a strong, stable bass.

There is some mystery surrounding the Sonata for Flute and Basso Continuo in C major BWV 1033, some researchers claiming it was not composed by J.S.Bach. One viable theory is that J.S.Bach wrote it as a solo flute work, suggesting that the skeletal figured bass was later added by his son Carl Philipp Emanuel. What is certain is that the sonata was intended to be played on the newer transverse flute and not on recorder. Young Dmitri’s performance of the flute part was clean, graceful and secure. The challenging passagework of the opening movement was cleanly handled. Moving into the Allegro, Dmitri’s playing was delightful, easeful and unmannered. His solid, mellow, cantabile performance of the serene Adagio was tastefully- and economically ornamented, with organ and flute roles sensitively balanced. In their expressive playing of the minuets, there was much use of detached notes; a greater variety of textures would make for more sophistication. The Redeemer Church’s acoustic projected the richness and warmth of the flute substantially. With father and son’s playing collaborating hand-in-glove, Dmitri’s musicality and competence made for much enjoyment, with promise of more to come.

The recital returned to Bach’s Weimar period to end with Roman Krasnovsky’s virtuosic and gregarious performance of J.S.Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in g minor BWV 542. Bach indicated that these works be played “pro organo pleno” (for the full organ), implying an ensemble sound based on principal stops with special combinations. The Weimar court must have had a powerful organ for this highly sonorous music. Krasnovsky’s musical world thrives on a vivid and creative use of color, his playing relishing the wildly chromatic and harmoniously adventurous Fantasia in which he explored the organ’s full potential, using a variety of colorings for different gestures. Here he was celebrating the unpredictable (Bach moves to as far as E flat minor), the surprising and the imaginative with a sense of spontaneity that Bach had surely intended for the free fantasia genre. In the Fugue, the virtuosic demands of what has been referred to as “the very best pedal piece by Mr. Bach” did not prevent the artist from articulately allowing the piece’s rich elaboration to unfold naturally and in a straightforward manner from a lighter mood than that the fantasia to the building up of forces into its grand ending.

Roman and Dmitri Krasnovsky sent the audience back out into the winter sunshine with a luxuriant and exotic reading of Gabriel Fauré’s “Sicilienne”.

Roman Krasnovsky

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