Like most kids, Vadym Kholodenko just wanted to play outside — but his mother had other ideas.
“She didn’t want me to spend all my time running on the playground, so she decided to bring me to a music school,” Kholodenko said, remembering he started playing when he was about 5. “But after my first lesson, I was so inspired.”
“She thought I had potential in music, but she never pushed me, which is very important in childhood,” continued Kholodenko, 27, a Ukrainian citizen and the 2013 winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Kholodenko will play two concerts on the Big Island.
The first is 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. The concert pianist will also perform at 7.30 p.m. Thursday at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center as part of the Hawaii Concert Society’s 52nd season.
Kholodenko’s concerts will include music by Chopin and Rachmaninoff.
Citizens of Cliburn’s hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, created the competition in 1962, four years after Cliburn — who died last year — won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. His 1958 victory helped thaw the icy rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Cliburn’s contest launched the careers of a numerous pianists, with Kholodenko the latest example. Only months after winning the competition he was slated to perform at more than 50 concerts between now and next May, the busiest Kholodenko said he has ever been during a piano concert season.
“It’s opened more American stages for my career,” Kholodenko said. “I never would have imagined I would be able to play these concerts.”
Three of the concerts are in the islands.
The first half of Kholodenko’s Hilo concert consists of the complete set of Chopin Etudes, Op. 25. These are much more than study pieces; no one before Chopin composed technical practice pieces that at the same time reached such musical heights. They are character pieces written for the concert hall, not the practice room.
The remainder of the program is devoted to Rachmaninoff’s piano transcriptions of works by other composers, including Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Kreisler. These transcriptions, are similar to Liszt’s familiar paraphrases and arrangements for solo piano, but they contain more interesting harmonies, Kholodenko said. Like Liszt’s works, they impose tremendous technical and artistic demands on the performer.
Before his busy concert season began last fall, Kholodenko was able to spend some time at home in Moscow with his wife, Sofia, and his daughter, Nika. He even let Nika play with his gold medal, which, luckily, she didn’t drop.
“She’s 3 years old, and I’m not sure she really understands it just yet,” Kholodenko said.
Hilo tickets are $20 for general admission, $16 for seniors and $10 for students and are available at the Most Irresistible Shop, Music Exchange, the UHH box office and the East Hawaii Cultural Center. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door. For additional information, call 935-5831.
Waimea tickets range from $20 to $64, and are available 9 a.m.-noon weekdays at the Kahilu box office, by phone at 885-6868 and at the Kahilu website at www.kahilutheatre.org.