With his gold medal triumph at the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition one year behind him, Vadym Kholodenko has a concert schedule that reads like a classical pianist’s wish list. This month alone he is performing the devilishly difficult Prokofiev second piano concerto with the Phoenix, Indianapolis, and Springfield symphony orchestras. His brief stop in Fort Worth on Thursday will highlight a genre the soloist is less known for: He will join members of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra at the Kimbell Art Museum’s Piano Pavilion for a little chamber music.
In a field shaped by eccentric personalities, the 28-year-old Ukrainian has developed a distinct public persona. In media interviews, his short, carefully crafted answers reveal him to be an artist with a deep, intuitive insight into classical music. His performances seem effortless, even during incredibly difficult passages, and his approach to cadenzas harks back to a time when pianist/composers such as Mozart and Beethoven re-invented established works for their own amusement. Before the Cliburn, Kholodenko crafted a cadenza passage for the Mozart concerto No. 21 while traveling to Fort Worth, leading Detroit Symphony Orchestra conductor Leonard Slatkin to request that Kholodenko write it out so that he would know when to cue the orchestra back in.
The rigors of his schedule have proven far more tiring than Kholodenko ever expected, he said, but Thursday’s event offers him a special treat.
“My favorite performance setting is chamber music,” he said. “With orchestras, your ideas [as a soloist] should be very solid before you go on stage, because otherwise, it’s impossible to put the soloist and orchestra together. With chamber music, you have more freedom. But then again, this freedom should stay in certain borders.”
In Fort Worth, Kholodenko is looking forward to the luxury of four days’ practice with the other musicians.
“What I miss with chamber music is the amount of rehearsal time,” he said. “It’s quite hard for any musician to find the time, but with chamber music, you should rehearse often. What makes chamber music so special is the contact between the musicians onstage. You don’t have that experience when performing with orchestras. When you are playing chamber music, you are part of one idea, and it’s really a special feeling.”
The upcoming concert features several FWSO section leaders — including violinist Michael Shih, cellist Allan Steele, oboist Jennifer Corning Lucio, clarinetist Ana Victoria Luperi, bassoonist Kevin Hall, and Kelly Cornell on French horn — in performances of works by Brahms and Poulenc.
FWSO clarinetist Luperi said Kholodenko adds a unique voice to the ensemble.
“He is an incredibly expressive musician, and each of his performances with the [FWSO] has been stellar,” she said. “He has a very strong musical voice of his own, and he employs a vast array of colors, shapes, and textures to bring out the character of the music.”
The return to Fort Worth is more than a mere engagement for Kholodenko. It’s a return home. “The generosity I received before and after the competition [in Fort Worth] was unlike anything I ever saw in my life,” he said.
There’s another reason to celebrate. Kholodenko, the married father of two young daughters, recently applied to become a U.S. citizen.
“I feel like part of this community,” he said. “Wherever I go, I represent the [Van Cliburn Foundation] and my home country of Ukraine, but I really love my host family and friends here, and I wish to stay near to them.”
More than anywhere else in the world, he said, Fort Worth feels like home.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s An Evening with Vadym Kholodenko and Friends
7pm Thu at the Piano Pavilion, Kimbell Art Museum, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. $40. 817-665-6000.