Although the young pianist has won competitions in Europe - among them the 2010 Bach Competition in Leipzig - and has been invited to the related festivals, he is a rare visitor to the concerts in Starnberg. That the Russian-born Ilya Poletaev in America belongs among the most significant pianists of his generation was clearly heard in the farthest corners by the packed audience in the Seefelder Schloss. That not only bolsters the series’ finances, but above all proved the acoustics in which Poletaev’s finesse and musical precision could emerge with great clarity.
A taste of Poletaev’s breadth of interest came in his interpretation of the Prelude and Fugue (BMV 870, 873 ands 878) from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. He adhered closely to historical practice. The Prelude followed the historical performance practice in which improvisation was free and dynamically and emotionally varied. The Fugue held its structural strength despite complexity, and the pianist made the voice leading transparent and flowing to the last note.
Shostakovich’s answer to Bach lay in the Prelude and Fugue (Op. 87, Nos. 2,16 and 24), both works in d minor. Poletaev followed the Russian composer deeply into his style and showed clearly the composer’s symphonic approach.
As bridge between baroque and modern, Poletaev offered the Sonata (Op. 61) by the Bohemian composer Johann Ladislaus Dussek. The 1806 work gave the recital closure and showed Dussek’s links to European masters, Chopin principal among them, but also Brahms whose Handel Variations neatly pair baroque sources and romantic evocation. Poletaev created music which fully differentiated between the many styles.