Pavel Nersessian - Summit Music Festival

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Donald Isler
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Pavel Nersessian - Summit Music Festival

Post by Donald Isler » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:57 pm

The Classical Music Guide
Pavel Nersessian, Piano
28th Summit Music Festival
Purchase, New York
July 29th, 2018

Bizet: Chants du Rhin (Songs of the Rhine)
Schubert: Three Piano Pieces, D. 946
Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15
Chopin: Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58

Pavel Nersessian is now a professor at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, from which he graduated in 1987. In 1991 he won First Prize in the GPA Dublin International Piano Competition. He is a favorite of audiences at the Summit Music Festival and it is easy to understand why. The piano always has a beautiful sheen when he plays, no matter the volume. His technique is such that he always appears to play with ease. His playing never sounds sentimental, but he always has interesting artistic ideas. And he usually programs at least one work that is unfamiliar to most of the audience.

The little known work on this program was the Bizet group of songs without words entitled "Songs of the Rhine." Though not profound, they are full of charm and loveliness. Particularly enjoyable were the gentle and floating L'aurore (Dawn), the tentative, beautiful and intimate Les rêves (Dreams), the witty, flirtatious and daring La Bohémienne, and the joyous and enthusiastic Le Retour (the Return).

The first of the three Schubert pieces, in E-Flat Minor, got off to a fast and intense start. Interestingly, Nersessian played the Andante B Major section at close to the same speed. Yet, it was reflective, and featured some beautiful runs that were a model of clarity. The E-Flat Major second piece was played quite straight, yet expressively. In the middle section he experimented with how soft it is possible to play. Though this is admirable, and wonderful control of extremely soft playing adds to the tonal variety, occasionally the results were almost inaudible. In other places, in his very individual way, he highlighted some melody notes very effectively. And the return to E-Flat Major was wonderful! Most of the final piece, in C Major, was energetic, though the D-Flat Major section was almost prayerful. Nersessian's transitions from one section of these pieces to another were always convincing, and he gave a real powerhouse, and exciting ending, to this one.

Schumann's Kinderszenen (Scenes of Childhood) were played in an engrossing manner, though I wondered if one or two of them were perhaps played on a slightly overlarge scale for pieces about children. But, as always, Nersessian's playing was full of interesting, individual touches. The fifth piece (Quite Happy) sounded spirited, indeed, and the sixth certainly did sound like an important event. The seventh, the ever popular Traumerei, was dreamy and super soft, and the eighth piece was full of charm. The last several pieces were reflective. And though it is the last piece which is entitled "The Poet Speaks" it was the one before that which musically described a child falling asleep most poetically.

Mr. Nersessian's performance of the Chopin Sonata, not surprisingly, was very fine. He made some interesting choices here. For one thing, in the first movement, he did the repeat, which most people omit. He got off to an athletic start, but unlike most people, who slow down for the second theme, he played that at almost the same speed. Yet he slowed down as he prepared to go into the D Major section at the end of the exposition. I'd never heard it done that way before. Then he altered all these things the second time! Very interesting and original, indeed!

The second movement was very fast, and fleet. The first statement of the melody of the third movement was particularly eloquent, as was the melody at the end, and the middle section, in E Major, was thoughtful and philosophical. The last movement was not played as fast as possible, but this made everything particularly clear, and powerful in effect.

Pavel Nersessian played one encore, May Nights, from "The Seasons" by Tchaikovsky. It was glistening, gorgeous, and a joy!

Donald Isler
Donald Isler

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