Chochieva shows sterling technique and poetry for Miami Piano Fest Academy

By Lawrence Budmen

Zlata Chochieva performed for the Miami International Piano Festival Academy Friday night in Davie. Photo: Andrej Grilc

Zlata Chochieva performed for the Miami International Piano Festival Academy Friday night in Davie. Photo: Andrej Grilc

The Miami International Piano Festival Academy and Nova Southeastern University presented Zlata Chochieva in recital Friday night at the Cotilla Gallery on the university’s Davie campus. One of a series of concerts by the keyboard instructors at the three-week summer program, Chochieva assayed a varied program of Bach, Mozart and rarely played Liszt vignettes as well as the Rachmaninoff oeuvre which is her specialty.

As previous appearances at the piano festival have demonstrated, Chochieva possesses a sterling technique. She can play at the fastest of speeds, handle rapid hand crossings and produce extremes of volume without losing the musical pulse.

The Cotilla Gallery is an inviting space. Intimate and cozy, the wide room is surrounded by art, currently an exhibition of watercolors. With only four rows of seats spread across the room, the musical experience is up-close and personal. The gallery’s hard floor can make the keyboard sound edgy but Chochieva impressively navigated the acoustical challenges, drawing a wide spectrum of colors and dynamics from the Steinway.

Ignaz Friedman’s beautiful transcription of the calm, serene Siciliano from Bach’s Flute Sonata, the program’s opening work, displayed her sensitivity of touch and lovely soft playing. Phrasing in long patterns, she aptly conveyed the winding flow of Bach’s thematic paths.

Without pause, Chochieva launched into Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor, K. 396. She brought out the gravitas and surprise of the opening bars without undue heaviness, never mistaking Mozart for Beethoven. There were no ungainly tempo shifts, the changes of mood from intense drama to a joyous brightness fluidly achieved.

Again eschewing any break for applause, Chochieva began Mozart’s iconic Sonata in C Major, K. 545 in crisp fashion. The famous principal theme of the first movement Allegro seemed almost operatic in Chochieva light treatment. There was grace and a singing line in the Andante but the underlying rhythmic underpinning, sometimes obscured in performance, was clearly audible. Mozart’s buoyant tunes really sparkled in Chochieva’s sprightly reading of the final Rondo. Throughout the performance, trills and filigree were delicately etched with spot on accuracy. Chochieva’s linking of the opening three pieces proved highly effective.

Her Liszt group opened with the Klavierstuck in F minor which¬†also emerged with lyricism and delicacy, not qualities one usually associates with Liszt’s music. Still there was plenty of power in the big keyboard volleys at climactic moments. Hymn de la Nuit finds Liszt in almost the mode of the Chopin salon and Chochieva brought a full quantity of charm and elegance to this atypical piece before the final bars faded into infinity.

Launching into Czardas macabre, a late Liszt score, she played the abrupt opening fragments of motifs with propulsive thrust and fierce energy. Sometimes characterized as “Bartok before Bartok,” this work fuses the paprika of Liszt’s Hungarian rhapsodies with pounding, kinetic strokes that portend the modernism of a new century. Chochieva’s hands darted across the keyboard at seeming lightning pace but her runs were technically immaculate and she infused the relentless clanging lines with a touch of gypsy verve.

Chochieva is a Rachmaninoff specialist. That Russian’s master’s grandly pianistic sororities and sweeping thematic invention fit her superb articulation and musical sensibilities perfectly. Playing ten of the Etudes-Tableaux, she managed to bring coherence and dramatic passion to these miniatures while giving a fine demonstration of keyboard technique.

She particularly captured the darkness of the C minor vignette from the Op. 33 set in grave and burnished tones. In the concluding section, she boldly unfurled one of those romantic Rachmaninoff melodies that inspired generations of film composers. There was speed and dexterity in the scherzo-like D minor etude, Op. 33, No. 4 and the sudden burst of sonority engulfed the room in the penultimate D minor etude from the later op. 39 collection.

Chochieva is a versatile artist but Rachmaninoff is clearly her forte.

The Miami International Piano Festival Academy presents Francesco Libetta playing works by Handel, Schubert, Beethoven and Wagner-Liszt 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cotilla Gallery at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. miampianofestacademy.com; 305-935-5115.

Posted in Performances


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