The Wittenberg University Department of Music and Faculty Endowment Fund Board co-welcomed pianist Kirill Gliadkovsky to campus and sponsored his piano performance on Sunday, titled “Viennese Salon”. Gliadkovsky also taught a piano masterclass on Friday, giving Wittenberg piano students the chance to perform for him and receive valuable feedback on their piano playing skills.
Gliadkovsky was born in Russia and currently serves as the Professor of Piano and Director of Keyboard Studies at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California. Before teaching at Saddleback, Gliadkovsky taught at USC and Santa Monica College, and has given several past tours in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
The recital at Wittenberg was composed of several pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Schubert, all composers based in Vienna. Gliadkovsky grouped the pieces by composer and gave an explanation of each composer’s life and contribution to classical music in the 18th and 19th centuries before performing.
Introducing his recital, Gliadkovsky explained that a popular style of classical music in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the central theme of this recital, was salon music. It was called salon music, Gliadkovsky said, because it was performed in “the living rooms of people’s houses,” at a time when “there were very few concert halls around.” Salon music was particularly popular in Austria, and composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Schubert, were all major composers of the style.
The first piece Gliadkovsky performed, Mozart’s “Fantasy in D Minor”, felt a little like listening to a dream. It was gentle and ephemeral, and Gliadkovsky glided through the most technically challenging portions like he was playing them in his sleep.
The second piece was a three-movement sonata by Beethoven nicknamed “Tempest.” Beethoven named this piece because, according to Gliadkovsky, “it was highly influenced by Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest.'” Beethoven also composed this piece while he was losing his hearing and coping with the reality that he was becoming deaf. These factors contributed to the tempestuous nature of the piece as it alternates jarringly between achingly slow and aggressively note-filled, keeping the audience on the edges of their seats.
Gliadkovsky’s next two pieces were two Intermezzos in A Major and E Flat Minor, and a Ballade in G minor, all composed by Brahms. The first Intermezzo was quiet and calm, a tranquil piece that threatened to put you to sleep. But the Ballade, which came immediately after, was quick to wake you back up with its loud and exciting melody. The last Intermezzo was still complex, but a gentler contrast to the Ballade.
Gliadkovsky’s fourth set of pieces was made of two Impromptus written by Schubert. Both pieces were complex and interesting, speaking well to the versatility of Schubert as a composer and Gliadkovsky as a performer.
Gliadkovsky ended with an encore, another short piece by Schubert, which was received by a standing ovation from the audience.
Gliadkovsky’s performance was a remarkable display of technical skill and expertise, and Wittenberg was honored to have him on our campus to share his talent with Wittenberg music students.