Piano virtuoso Vadym Kholodenko makes Bay Area debut

Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko is coping with the price of fame.

After winning the $50,000 gold medal last year at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the 27-year-old virtuoso is appearing in concerts around the world — including a performance presented by the Bay Area Steinway Society on Saturday in Cupertino — and continuing his studies at Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory.

As part of the prize, Kholodenko is engaged in more than 50 concerts in 2014-15, in addition to numerous other engagements across Europe, Russia and Asia and at major festivals.

How does he balance demanding performance programs almost nightly with being absent from his family, including a 3-year-old daughter, in Moscow?

“This is a tough question for me,” Kholodenko says. “On one hand, I feel very badly to be separated from my family. But from time to time we are traveling together, and they know perfectly why I do what I’m doing. My family is happy, and this is great news for me.”

The schedule taking its toll might have been related to temporary health problems that prompted Kholodenko to cancel a local Steinway Society recital slated for September last year; the group managed to re-engage him.

Saturday’s program, his Bay Area debut, includes works by Chopin, Brahms’ Four Ballades, Kreisler’s “Liebesleid” (“Love’s Sorrow”) and “Liebesfreud” (“Joy of Love”), and the sonata “Forgotten Melodies” by Nikolai Medtner, a Russian pianist and composer active in the first half of the 20th century.

He doesn’t make hard calculations in determining what to play in concert: “All of my programs come from my aesthetic views and internal confidence about what is right and what is not.”

A lover of contemporary music, Kholodenko also advocates for new works. He says, “I’m trying to perform and support many of the Russian contemporary composers. I think new music is the only thing which refreshes our art.”

Kholodenko’s winning performance at the 2013 Cliburn competition — a contest held every four years — in Fort Worth, Texas, was notable. Music critic Jeff Dunn reported, “Kholodenko had power, most apparent in Liszt and Prokofiev, and tenderness as well. He was creative. He composed an elaborate, Beethovian cadenza for the Mozart Concerto No. 21, with lots of interesting harmonic changes and fugal passages, and pulled it off with aplomb. The fact that he wrote it on the plane while flying to Fort Worth amazed me. This is a man with a future, and guts.”


Vadym Kholodenko

Presented by Steinway Society

Where: Visual & Performing Arts Center, De Anza College, 21250 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $30 to $58

Contact: (408) 990-0872, Music & OperaSteinway SocietyVadym KholodenkoVan Cliburn International Piano Competition

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