“Zeitinsel II” Festival at the Konzerthaus Dortmund, 2008
“Sensational start of abundant spirit”
Devoted to the composer György Ligeti, “Zeitinsel II” in the Konzerthaus commenced with a sensational piano recital by Evgeni Koroliov.
The pianist walks to the piano without a hint of pretentiousness. Yet then he works up a masterly play of colours of wholly discreet virtuosity, which causes astonishment. Ligeti greatly valued his younger colleague at Hamburg Musikhochschule as an interpreter of his works. Koroliov is capable of unfolding the composer’s versatility in bravura fashion, of laying bare his character. He played pieces from ‘Musica Ricercata’ – with rhythmic precision, a powerful approach yet also lyrical tenderness. Here Ligeti brought a wealth of ideas to his reappraisal and reshaping of the sound material that he drew from the folklore of his Hungarian homeland.
Later the ‘Etudes pour Piano’ were heard as examples of Ligeti’s “later work”. These consist of highly virtuoso piano music in succession to Romantic and Impressionist music, also influenced by music from outside Europe, unsentimental and often notable for humour. Koroliov presented these with grandezza and sensitive intuition: the sparkling restlessness of the ‘Fanfares’, the lyrical beauty of ‘Arc-en ciel’, losing itself in supreme heights, the joy in dance of ‘FEM’, the obsession of the ‘Zauberlehrling’ and – virtuoso – the Teufelstreppe, with Satan heard sniggering and the distorted sound of church bells floating above.
Yet Ligeti also held for Koroliov in high regard on account of his unusual playing of Bach. Breathtakingly thrilling and impressive, he proved this here with contributions from the Art of Fugue. The way in which he lays bare structures, clearly brings out the spiritual content, and at the end builds up the great climaxes of Fugue 3 a Soggetti like some miraculous work, will not be emulated by anybody else all that soon!
Westfälische Rundschau / WAZ, Sonja Müller-Eisold, 5 April 2008
Hamburg – Laeiszhalle, Main Hall
"Evgeni Koroliov for Pro Arte: Relating finalities at the piano"
If we search for characteristics shared by the Pop-star pianist from the Middle Kingdom with his Punk coiffeur and the neatly combed Evgeni Koroliov, three points do actually occur to us: Both are served by a Steinway as a means of production, both opt for our venerable Laeiszhalle as the venue, and both perform in Hamburg’s most distinguished Classical music concert series, namely Pro Arte. Apart with these career-related points that they have in common, otherwise significant differences between the two become visible - and above all, audible. For Koroliov, the name Pro Arte is significant, since for him this denotes art. In view of his pronounced qualities as an actor, with Lang Lang it is hard to escape the impression that the show is paramount.
As Koroliov came on stage for his solo recital on Friday, he did not simply seem modest, but all too shy, introverted and in a wondrously humble manner, also intellectual. As if he wished to immediately confirm this outer appearance in his art as well, he initially devoted himself to the fixed star in his musical firmament, Johann Sebastian Bach. One would like to call the piano music of the St. Thomas cantor one of Koroliov’s trademarks, yet one immediately shies away from such prosaic notions borrowed from the world of commerce. Marketing, namely, in the sense of sales machinery aimed at maximizing profit in the short term, is completely alien to this servant of art, born in Moscow in 1949. His recipe for success is founded on a profound understanding of music itself.
Koroliov builds on soft and wise tones, for with his selection of preludes and fugues from Bach’s "Well Tempered Clavier" he is constantly on the trail of the mystery of this truly great music. Where the deed and the spirit go so ideally hand in hand with Bach, Koroliov proves to be a genius in emulating him, who in a wholly accomplished manner is at once thinker and doer. If one initially regards his playing of Bach as judicious, considered and happily proportioned, in the course of the cycle extreme means of recall and reincarnation certainly become apparent: The tempi are either wholly measured or unreservedly swift, whereby he does not overstrain the extremes, but as exponent with the range of a philosopher at the piano quite simply exploits these to perfection: In a meditative winding down, this master pianist brings out all the loving kindness and warmth in Bach. The preludes make a profound and inspired, yet never brooding, impression, instead shot through with Bach’s divine clarity of thought. He dissects some of the chromatically splayed fugues with a glass-clear transparency, making audible the boldness of the scheme in all its modernity. In Koroliov’s Bach, intellectual grasp and sensual playing meet in a truly golden mean.
After the interval, in Haydn and Beethoven, he gave an entirely new weighting to the two ingredients. He spiced Josef Haydn’s Sonata in C Major Hob. XVI: 50 with sharply distinct staccato-legato alternations and merry accents, surrendering to a bright playfulness, as if wishing to place Haydn as a powerfully contrasting counterpoint in front of Beethoven’s last sonata, the Opus 111 that is so laden with thought. Where Beethoven here once again builds up a gigantic cosmos ranging from heroic passion to the calm Buddhist purification of a stormy warrior, Koroliov even seemed to proclaim finalities and mysterious truths: What holds the inmost part of the world together? Here it became a confession.
Peter Krause, Die Welt, 3 December 2007
Israel - Eilats first international chamber music festival
“Eilats Winterfest hits the right note”
… But it was a Russian-born pianist, Evgeny Koroliov, who emerged as the absolute hero of the festival. Koroliov, who is known for his J.S. Bach, grace his rendering of the "Goldberg Variations," which has brought him world fame. His performance was both emotional and intellectual; the humane yet hypnotizing sound of his piano kept the audience literally breathless throughout the long piece.
The Jerusalem Post, Maxim Reider, Feb. 28, 2006
Salzburg Festival "Pfingsten + Barock"
“Good temper with Bach”
Should it be true that J. S. Bach actually composed the "Goldberg Variations" as a sleeping aid for Graf Keyserlingk, then the pianist, born 1949 in Moscow, must have succumbed to a misapprehension. The further he proceeded in the variation-suite of this colossal opus, the more wide-eyed you turned out to be. The first matinee of the "Pfingsten + Barock" Festival in the Mozarteum on saturday concluded with great excitement.
And this, despite the fact that Evgeni Koroliov is not an eccentric, but rather played his Bach with a high structural clarity and "classical evenness", whether in the chromatic Adagio No. 26, in the rapid Canon alla Nona No. 27 or in the blazing Quodlibet No. 30. The breathtaking intensity arose from a precious humbleness towards Art and from unaffected virtuosity. Mozarts variations on "Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman" prolonged the delight in the russian pianists dexterity, who teaches in Hamburg. Thrilling, everything but a contemplative rest.
Salzburger Nachrichten, by Ernst P. Strobl, May 17th, 2005
"Bachs music has seldom been played in such a thoughtful, mature and unalloyed way. The listeners were enthusiastic."