Georgy Tchaidze at Wigmore Hall

Fairy Tales, Op.34
Piano Sonata No.4 in C minor, Op.29
The Seasons, Op.37b – October: Autumn’s Song; November: On the Troika; December: Yuletide
Pictures at an Exhibition

Georgy Tchaidze (piano)

Reviewed by: Peter Reed

Reviewed: 19 March, 2012
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

The Honens competition has certainly chosen well with the young (turning 24 later this month) St Petersburg pianist Georgy Tchaidze, who won the first laureate prize in 2009. This triennial Canadian organisation then nurtures its prize-winners in developing their careers over the following three years; later this year Tchaidze will be on his own. (Bavouzet is a Honens man, and he’s done okay.)

Tchaidze’s Wigmore Hall performance was remarkably assured, with none of that nervy tension that can take over career-influencing recitals, leaving listeners to get a truer idea of an artist’s ability and identity from a couple of encores. Tchaidze produced the sort of bravura playing that, if you shut your eyes, could easily be the result of a histrionic style. In fact he is agreeably self-contained, so, whether he is negotiating the extremes of bombast and volume in ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’, the feverish virtuosity of the finale of Prokofiev’s Fourth Sonata or the gentler salon lyricism of Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, the music flowed easily and, as required, surged powerfully.

Honens clearly has an ear for musicianship beyond prodigious technique – which Tchaidze has in equally prodigious abundance – and must have tuned-in to his lively, incisively characterised playing. He was completely inside the bizarre world of Medtner’s Fairy Tales, impulsive, gnomic, rapid-response pieces that depend on unselfconscious directness to make their point; he played the big first piece, ‘The Magic Violin’, a minefield of unexpected phrasing and mood-change, with a keen ear for its colour and fantasy.However, it was Tchaidze’s performance of the Prokofiev that clinched the success of this recital. The Fourth may not have as high a profile as 6 and 7, but it’s a maelstrom of driven passion and haunting lyricism. The overtly virtuosic passages were gripping enough, but it was the bittersweet tenderness of the slow movement that put the work in context, through playing of great depth, imagination and maturity.

Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons doesn’t really cut the mustard in the concert hall – performances of the whole cycle can be a surfeit of droopy delight. Tchaidze wisely kept a firm hand on the music’s charm offensive, with plenty of engaging detail, and its nods to the cosy fantasy of Schumann and a surprising anticipation of a Janáček-style angularity tactfully expanded the music’s reach without making it pretentious.

The directness of Tchaidze’s playing paid huge dividends in Pictures at an Exhibition, in a performance of this weird masterpiece that got right back to its overpowering originality. The ‘Promenades’ were full of personality, and Hartmann’s ten paintings burst into extravagant, gaudy life. The ‘Gnome’ scuttled, leered and growled to great effect, the ‘Old Castle’ shifted in and out of melancholic focus, ‘Baba Yaga’ was compellingly grotesque, and the level of volume in ‘Great Gate of Kiev’, without a hint of banging, was magnificent. This was thrilling playing, delivered with a beguiling, no-nonsense showmanship that was immensely attractive. Georgy Tchaidze has a great deal to offer.

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