Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Most Welcomed Return

When an artist made a staggering first impression, as Zlata Chochieva did when she first played in Vancouver, expectations are high when she or he makes a return appearance. I am happy to report that Chochieva’s recital last Sunday confirmed that her artistry is still as wondrous as ever. Indeed, she has, if anything, matured as an artist and as a musician.


Her recital programme is a re-creation of the works she recorded on her most recent CD of works by Mozart and Scriabin – two very different and contrasting sound worlds. None of the works played were pieces that appear time and again in piano recitals, which makes for a very refreshing change from the sameness that we sometimes see in programming. 


In the two sets of variations by Mozart – Nine Variations on a Minuet by Duport (K. 573) and Ten Variations on “Unser dummer Pobel meint” (C. W. Cluck) (K. 455) – she played Mozart with a firm grasp of the operatic nature of the composer’s music. Figaro, Susanna, Leporello, Despina, and a host of other characters came alive in front of our mind’s eyes. There was nothing “pretty” or precious about her approach to this music, as every phrase was filled with energy and colour. Every phrase, every musical gesture, was delivered with the grace and panache of a prima ballerina. Moreover, she has an uncanny sense of timing both within each variation, in the evolution from one variation to the next, as well as each variation within the context of the entire structure.


Stylistically, the two sets of Preludes by Scriabin, Op. 15 and Op. 16, were still composed with a firm nod to the past, most notably to the music of Chopin, whom Scriabin adored. Chochieva approached these miniatures like a visual artist, painting before us the infinite variety of sound colours that the composer must have had in mind when putting notes to paper. One is reminded that Scriabin had a great interest, indeed obsession with, colour and sound. This wonderful artist was able to coax a gorgeous range of sounds from the piano, very much highlighting the sensual beauty of Scriabin’s music.


It is truly astounding to hear Scriabin’s evolution as a composer when a work such as the Sonata No. 3 in F-sharp minor (Op. 23) was juxtaposed against the truly forward-looking Sonata No. 10 (Op. 70). While the large-scale, highly dramatic third sonata is still firmly rooted in the 19th century, the chromaticism and tonal ambiguity of the tenth sonata truly looks far beyond the 20thcentury. Pianistically and musically, Chochieva delivered both works with great panache. She infused the third sonata with a sense of unity in the four disparate and contrasting movements, and highlighted the concentration of expression of the tenth sonata. In both works, she gave us all the sound colours the composer must have had in mind when composing these works. 


As if trying to dispel the ambiguous atmosphere of Scriabin’s tenth sonata, Chochieva brought her recital to a far more lighthearted conclusion with Mozart’s Gigue in G major (K. 574) which, along with the K. 522 A Musical Joke, are probably two of the composer’s most hilarious works. It is often easier to convey sadness than joy in music, but Chochieva succeeded in communicating to the audience all the humour inherent in this brief work.


This mood of charm and joy continued in the encore she played, the Toccata by French pianist, teacher and composer Pierre Sancan. The young artist delivered with stunning pianism – and at the most daring tempo – as well as with the Gallic charm and flavour called for by this music.


All in all, a truly spectacular showcase of pianism and musicianship. Along with Vadym Kholodenko’s stunning debut, we had truly been fortunate to have experienced two of today’s most interesting young artists within a fortnight. I am of course mindful of Sir Andras Schiff’s recent pair of masterful recitals, but with performances such as we had from Kholodenko and Chochieva’s, we are reminded that the future of great music is indeed in very good hands.

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