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In 1928 the Italian pianist Guido Agosti (a pupil of Ferruccio Busoni) transcribed three movements from the score for Igor Stravinsky's 1910 ballet The Firebird. This rarely heard transcription demands a pianist with almost superhuman technical facility. Burstein is a stunning virtuoso capable of the most daunting pianistic challenges. His performance of Agosti's remarkable reconfiguration of a balletic classic was simply stunning! The first crashing chords of the Infernal Dance engendered a performance of incredible speed and agility. The languorous Russian Lullaby was both poignant and magical in Burstein's hands. The instrumental color, finely crafted elegance, and glowing sweep of the music were exhilarating. What virtuosic fireworks Burstein brought to Agosti's brilliant reinvention of the finale! His piano seemed to encompass all the instrumental colors of the orchestra. Burstein's dynamic range is vast. Few pianists produce such gorgeous pianissimos! The marvelous conclusion (of the final wedding procession music) was simply thrilling. The sheer sonority (without clangor) and brilliance of Burstein's playing were extraordinary. The perfect combination of a remarkable score and a great pianist!

In Russia the composer-pianist Nikolai Medtner is viewed with a reverence reserved for that nation's musical deities. As a student at the Moscow Conservatory, Medtner studied composition with Arensky (a pupil of Tchaikovsky) and Taneyev and piano with the legendary Safanov. Even today Medtner shares gold plaques of honor with Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff on the Conservatory's walls. Medtner's musical aesthetic was steeped in 19th century Russian Romanticism. (He idolized Rachmaninoff.) If the arc of history has passed him by, Medtner remains a composer of striking creative brilliance. His Skazki or Fairy Tales are some of his most daringly original works. At once deeply Russian and melancholic, the scores are also pervaded by the spirit of Liszt in his demonic mode. These miniatures require a pianist of dazzling technical attainments. It is not surprising that such pianistic legends as Vladimir Horowitz and Shura Cherkassky championed this music. Denis Burstein has all the brilliance and pianistic dazzle of those giants and then some. In six of the Medtner Fairy Tales Burstein brought rhythmic urgency, fiery brilliance, singing lyrical line, and an incredible array of pianistic colors. Pianism of the legendary variety! (Perhaps Burstein can revive Medtner's three remarkable piano concertos. These wonderful scores deserve renewed performance and Burstein could be their perfect champion.)

For encores Burstein offered two wonderfully whimsical jazz improvisations. (His musical interests are broad.) A stunning, rapid fire version of George Gershwin's Rialto Rhythms was a vivid reminder that he is a master of musical Americana. Burstein combines a deeply probing musical intellect with the kind of virtuosity of which legends are made! A stunning recital by an extraordinary musician!

Copyright © 19 December 2004 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA




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