Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Bewitching Detail and Thunderous Power from Pianist Karine Poghosyan at Carnegie Hall

Last night the thunderstorm over Carnegie Hall was no match for what Karine Poghosyan was doing inside. New York’s most charismatic classical pianist played for more than two hours, completely from memory – including five pieces by Liszt. Flinging her hair back, swaying on the piano bench, she embodied the grace of a gymnast and also the strength and stamina of a boxer. Her response to the standing ovation at the end was to flex her biceps and give everybody the revolutionary salute, left fist triumphantly in the air. She’d earned it.

There’s a fleeting moment in Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole where instead of a new thematic variation, the composer offers a split-second shadow of a doubt: are we really going in the right direction, toward real Romany-inspired bliss, he asks? Other pianists capable of playing the piece would likely burn through that moment. But Poghosyan caught it, as she did so many similar instances throughout the rest of the program.

Poghosyan has a righthand with a quicksliver precision but also crushing power, and a left hand so ferocious that she could ride the pedal, as she frequently did throughout the show, and still Liszt’s stabbing low-register chords would resonat cleanly. But ultimately, what differentiates her from the hundreds of other hotshot pianists around the world who can play on her level is that that she goes much deeper into the music, for narrative, and emotion, and especially amusement.

This bill was conceptual, springboarded by an epiphany she had after an apparently disheartening meeting with a top agent a couple of years ago. After that, Poghosyan swore off trying to please people and instead decided to concentrate on what she likes playing most. She offered this program simply as a collection of works that make her feel the most alive. Truth in advertising: she could have woken the dead.

Sporting a crimson jumpsuit, she leapt from the piano after nimbly negoatiating the cruelly challenging octaves and jackhammer flamenco passages of the night’s first number, DeFalla’s Fantasia Betica. After changing to a shiny copper dress for the second half of the program, she closed with two pieces by Khachaturian, a composer whose work she has fiercely advocated. An arrangement of the adagio from his opera Spartacus came to life as a coy flirtation, a cat-and-mouse game between possible lovers, jaunty precision against airy, balletesque joy laced with caution and bittersweetness..

Khachaturian’s 1961 Piano Sonata was a study in far more intense contrasts, from gorgeously glittering yet enigmatic Near Eastern tonalities, a Debussy-esque garden in a hailstorm, and finally the crushing volleys of a dance with far heavier artillery than mere sabres. And she approached the Liszt with almost shocking sensitivity and attention to detail. Poghosyan shifted with seamless verve between angst and exhilaration, dazzling upper righthand constellations and stygian terror from the low left, in the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 7, the Grande Etude de Paganini, No, 3 and the lilting Spozalizio, from his Annees de Pelerinage. And as hubristic as Liszt’s arrangemetn of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 543 was, Poghosyan was undaunted as she worked the counterpoint with High Romantic flair. She encored with the romping finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird.

In academia, both piano faculty and students refer derisively to “sovietization:”a cookie-cutter approach to performance. Last night, Poghosyan reaffirned her status as the least Sovietized pianist in the world.

Advertisements

May 31, 2019 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conductor Farkhad Khudyev Shares His Raison D’Etre

This coming Sunday, March 25, highly regarded up-and-coming conductor Farkhad Khudyev leads the Greenwich Village Orchestra in a 3 PM performance of Kachaturian’s Sabre Dance and Violin Concerto, and the Brahms Symphony No. 3. It looks to be an auspicious connection between like-minded, energetically-inclined purists. A child prodigy on the violin in his native Turkmenistan, Khudyev is Azeri by descent, educated at Interlochen, Oberlin and Yale, and has conducted several orchestras in central Asia and the United States. A thoughtful and passionately honest advocate for the music he performs, Khudyev took some time out of his schedule to answer a few questions about the concert:

Lucid Culture: Audiences often wonder how orchestras and conductors come together. How did this gig happen? Did you find the GVO or did they find you?

Farkhad Khudyev: Barbara Yahr [the Greenwich Village Orchestra’s conductor] contacted me after looking at my video materials, we met for a cup of coffee and had a lovely time talking about music and the conducting world.

LC: You come from an interesting background as an awardwinning young concert violinist – which was your ticket to a scholarship at Interlochen, the Juilliard of the midwest. How did you get involved with conducting? Has this always been an interest for you?

FK: Conducting has always been something incredibly special to me. I remember when I was studying violin and composition back at Interlochen, the desire to conduct was already coming to me then. Through this mystical and beautiful art I felt I could communicate the best that great artists have given us, while simultaneously bringing my own inner world into the music.

LC: Does conducting get in the way of the violin for you, or vice versa? Which do you prefer – or does it really matter to you?

FK: I try to find time for the violin as much as I can. Currently Australian pianist Stephen Whale and I have been performing as a duo, Duo Fondamento, where we try to bring out a fundamental approach to our interpretation of Beethoven, Brahms, as well as various other sonatas in our repertoire. I also often play with my two brothers, violinist Eldar Khudyev and clarinetist Emil Khudyev, who are fantastic musicians. We’ve done critically acclaimed concerts together at several venues throughout the world as the Khudyev Brothers. Conducting, playing the violin and composing are all closely related, I feel, and all three of these great art forms help me communicate what I have to say through music.

LC: You’re also a composer. How has does that inform your view of how to conduct an orchestra?

FK: Composing has helped me to understand instrumentation, orchestration and most of all I learned how to compose all the great works of great composers for myself again. In other words, I learned to rediscover music that I conduct and bring some fresh air into these great works.

LC: You’ve led a very diverse list of orchestras, from your native Turkmenistan, to Russia, to the USA. As a guest conductor, what’s the main challenge for you?

FK: As guest conductor, it is a challenge to bring all the musicians together and let them trust your own inner world. Once musicians see the truth and depth in your work, trust comes very quickly. I find that first rehearsal is very important. My goal is to inspire every musician in the orchestra so we all have a great experience working together and most importantly a meaningful performance. The GVO is a wonderful orchestra with such friendly and warm musicians. This month has been a great experience for me.

LC: To what degree can a conductor breathe new life into well-known works like these without completely twisting them out of shape – or should a conductor attempt such at thing at all?

FK: I think that a conductor can only attempt to breathe new life into these great works once the music has lived with him or her for a long time. The point where the music speaks through a conductor is the right time to attempt to bring it to life. These works are full of inner depth, and they require time and experience to be able to understand, and to breathe new life into them.

LC: I think you’re going to find this orchestra a joy to work with. Is there anything special that audiences should look forward to on the 25th?

FK: Since I am ethnically Azeri, from Turkmenistan, it’s very special for me to conduct Kachaturian’s music – its traits are similar to the culture I grew up in. This music is full of strength as well as ethereal warmth and softness. These two extreme sonic aspects are culturally meaningful in the Caucasus. Brahms’ Third Symphony is a great example of an artist’s love of freedom and longing for it, despite life’s bitter hardships. Brahms cherishes all kinds of wonderful memories with great tenderness throughout the symphony, immortalizing them in the music.

LC: Are you sick to death of getting tagged with the wunderkind thing, you know, “young conductor?” I mean, you’re in your twenties now, you’ve graduated from conservatory. Can we simply count you among your peers in the conducting world now? Is that what you’ve worked toward all along?

FK: Music is my life and it gives me a chance to express everything I have in my heart which I am strongly thankful for. Therefore I have never taken the “wunderkind thing” seriously, since it does not mean much to me. I know that as long as I live I will try to give everything to this divine gift. Music grants strength, sincerity, purity and joy to humanity, which is so essential in our world.

Farkhad Khudyev leads the Greenwich Village Orchestra in a performance of Kachaturian’s Sabre Dance, Violin Concerto and Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 at Washington Irving HS Auditorium, Irving Place and 16th St. in Manhattan at 3 PM on Sunday, March 25, $15 sugg. don., reception to follow.

March 18, 2012 Posted by | classical music, concert, interview, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment