Shevchenko brings out the dance at Frost Chopin Festival

By Lawrence Budmen

Margarita Shevchenko performed at the Frost Chopin Academy and Festival Thursday night.

Fredric Chopin and Enrique Granados each write music that is infused with the spirit of the dance. Polonaises and mazurkas are pivotal to the Polish icon’s scores (including the concertos and large-scale compositions) while Granados’s works are replete with Spanish rhythms. Margarita Shevchenko illuminated these musical parallels in the second streamed recital of the Frost Chopin Festival Thursday night.

Shevchenko is a faculty member of Michigan State University’s school of music. In 1990 she competed against festival director Kevin Kenner at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw. (Shevchenko won fourth prize while Kenner scored second in a year in which no top prize was awarded.) She also took honors at the Leeds, Cleveland and Rubinstein competitions. Her brief 37-minute streamed program, filmed at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Boca Raton, marked her as a Chopin player of idiomatic fluency and communicative skill.

Shevchenko fully captured the romantic spirit of Chopin’s Impromptu in F-sharp Major, Op. 36 in a reading marked by fleet fingerwork. The Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 39 emerged demonic, almost Lisztian as Shevchenko assayed fistfuls of notes at rapid speed with total precision. In the middle section, her touch became softer, the sound warmer and crystalline. Yet there were reserves of power for the concluding exclamations. Chopin has often been characterized as a bel canto composer and that operatic relation was brought out vividly in Shevchenko’s performance of the Scherzo No. 4 in E Major, Op. 54. With appealing lightness and digital dexterity, she drew a singing line and tone from the normally percussive instrument.

Turning to Granados, Shevchenko offered two movements from the suite Goyescas. She captured the incessant rhythmic drive of “El Fandango de Candil.” Her fine structural sense was matched by deftly sprinkled Spanish coloration and an astute touch of impressionism. In “Los Requiebros,” her approach was more svelte and rhapsodic. Indeed, the miniature emerged, under Shevchenko’s hands, like Rachmaninoff with a Latin accent. Shevchenko evidenced real affinity for the music’s shifting color palette and total security in the finale’s keyboard spanning octaves, taken at top pace. 

The Frost Chopin Festival presents pianist Zlata Chochieva playing Grieg’s Album Leaves, Ravel’s Miroirs and Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4, 7 p.m. Friday. Free streaming at

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Fri Jul 9, 2021
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