Alexander Thomas, born in Kalinin, is now in his early
forties. He studied at the Central Special Music School in
Moscow. Central to his development were figures such as Lev
Vlasenko – a rival to Van Cliburn once upon a time in Moscow
- and Grigory Sokolov; the former as a teacher in Moscow,
the latter at the Rimsky-Korsakov conservatory in St Petersburg.
After a number of competition successes he became the principal
soloist of the Moskoncert Moscow State Philharmonic Association.
By my reckoning he was a mature musician of thirty-nine
when he recorded this Chopin and Liszt recital in February
2006. It’s a very conventional looking programme but there’s
surely nothing wrong with that. He plays four Chopin Nocturnes,
the A flat major Ballade and the First Scherzo. The F major
Nocturne is warmly attractive whilst its opus mate, the F
sharp major, is pretty fast and sometimes just a bit cursory
in the decorations. He’s left in a finger slip, which reveals
his honesty – something touched on in the extensive booklet
notes. The C sharp minor Nocturne is clear eyed but not at
all cold and he takes the E major a touch slowly, but plays
with tonal warmth, albeit he does rush a little. His Ballade
has sprung rhythms and doesn’t get overheated when you anticipate
it might. Good dynamics inform the Scherzo which turns into
a kind of lullaby. Again the tonal qualities are warm but
the playing is a touch too straight.
When it comes to Liszt we find that he slightly hurries Les
Jeux d’eau à la Villa
there’s just a touch of hardness in the playing. Maybe
too he lacks colours and nuance in the Rhapsodie
Then again this straightness, this
refusal to grandstand or make extraneous gestures serves
him well in Sposalizio
though the tonal responses
could be more refulgent. On balance I’d say he is temperamentally
more a Chopin adherent than a Lisztian, well – technically – though
he dispatches the latter’s music.
This is my first acquaintance with Thomas’s playing.
He’s a scrupulous, thoughtful, and dedicated musician – nothing
flashy or clumsy about him here.