Vadym Kholodenko gives a strong performance in Massachusetts.

Vadym Kholodenko won gold in the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition. The tour inked on the heels of the triumph crisscrossed the lower 48 and finally made it to our neck of the woods, a very long way from Ft. Worth. Sold-out Shalin Liu center in Rockport had a chance to experience real piano magic as the leftover waves from last night’s storm were crashing in Sandy Bay, safely distant and free of menace.

In his rather difficult-to-understand introduction, the pianist told how his vision of Schumann’s Nachtstücke approached Dutch genre painting. And the interpretation that followed was indeed a bit closer to night as a party time rather than a  brooding time.  Still the right balance was there: Trauerzug got respect, unlike in a Gilels recording that I revisited after the concert, where it is almost comically rushed through. The scenes from  Kuriose Gesellschaft and Nachtliches Gelage pieces were appropriately lively, but short of grotesque that a more literal interpretation of the suite’s funereal context demands.  Indeed, his interpretation was something of a panorama of life (of which death is a part), seen from above, as in an Averkamp’s painting of a skating crowd. He endowed the following Humoreske Opus 20 with sensitive phrasing and coloring. However distant the early Romantic sense of humor may be from our modern sensibilities, it perfectly rewarded musically.

The second half consisted of Scriabin’s 24 Preludes Opus 11 and Fantasie Opus 28. They could not have been played more beautifully, coming as they did with gorgeous colors, sensitive rubato, and voices not just sounding clearly, but as if breathing independently.  I could maybe use a bit more lifeblood—not just perfect finger work—in the 3rd prelude marked Vivo as it sounded a little too distant for my taste. But then again, there isn’t a single forte marking in it, and it may be just that my ear has been forever damaged by some idiomatic, which is to say over the top, Scriabin performances.

Read more at The Boston Musical Intelligencer