Vadym Kholodenko’s Cliburn gold medal has turned into the busy concert pianist’s career he had hoped for.
Four months after winning the prestigious piano competition in Fort Worth, the 26-year-old Ukrainian is slated to perform at more than 50 concerts between now and May, the busiest Kholodenko said he has ever been during a concert season. One of them brings him to Halton Theater Oct. 18 as the second show in the Charlotte Concerts season.
“It’s opened more American stages for my career,” said Kholodenko, who recently performed at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado and Sunriver Music Festival in Oregon. “It’s just a new level: I never would have imagined I would be able to play these concerts.”
As the June winner of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Kholodenko received $50,000 and three years of international concert management from the Cliburn Foundation.
With that professional management came a professional photo shoot in the late pianist’s Fort Worth home.
During the shoot, Kholodenko, who describes himself as “quite serious,” was told he needed to smile more, he said. The photographer tried to get him to joke around with third-place winner Sean Chen, who was also there for photos. Instead, the two pianists sat down at Cliburn’s Steinway and played a short duet.
“It was so interesting to be in Van Cliburn’s home, just to feel the atmosphere of culture and intelligence in his house,” said Kholodenko, who enjoyed looking at the framed photos of Cliburn in Russia and with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. “I was very excited with it all.”
Before his busy concert season began, Kholodenko was able to spend time at home in Moscow with his wife, Sofia, and his daughter, Nika. He even let Nika play with his gold medal; luckily, she didn’t drop it. “She’s almost 3, but I’m not sure she really understands it just yet,” Kholodenko said.
There were also a few parties to celebrate his Cliburn win, but they were “really intelligent, modern parties,” he said.
With concerts in Fort Worth, San Francisco and Charlotte, Kholodenko doesn’t know when he’ll be back home in Ukraine again or when he’ll see his family. But he hopes they will be able to join him on part of his concert tour in the United States (possibly in October or November), so he can show them the U.S.
Traveling to new cities in America has been a bonus for the pianist. Kholodenko, who likes to hike and take nature walks, said he was very impressed with Crater Lake. “It was so beautiful,” he said, having a hard time trying to describe his amazement at the Oregon lake that formed inside a volcanic crater 6,000 feet above sea level.
And with all the concerts, Kholodenko is making new fans for classical music. Often, he said, he is greeted at the stage door after concerts by audience members who want to take his picture, some of which get posted on Facebook. There was one fan, he remembered, who seemed particularly moved by his performance.
“He said he was so touched by the music,” Kholodenko said, “and in this case, I sensed that I did something special.”