Steinway Society the Bay Area presents Sofya Gulyak in Recital

On Sunday, May 7, the Bay Area Steinway Society presented the distinguished Russian pianist Sofya Gulyak in what amounted to a monumental concert! The venue was The Petit Trianon in San Jose. The piano used for this performance was a magnificent 2005 New York Steinway, arguably one of the very finest pianos to be found anywhere! Under the hands of Ms Gulyak it sounded heavenly.

The challenging program consisted of Sonata Op. 33 No. 1 by Muzio Clementi (1752-1832); Seven works from the Nutcracker Suite by Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1853) transcribed by Mikhail Pletnev (b. 1957); Prelude and Fugue in D flat Major, Op. 87 No. 15 by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975); Four Fairy Tales by Nikolai Medtner (1879-1951) and Piano Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 82. And for the encore, a beautiful, haunting realization of the Adagio from the Concerto for Oboe in D minor by the Venetian composer Alessandro Marcello (1673-1747) transcribed by J S Bach.

Sofya Gulyak is a native of Kazan, Russia. She graduated with the highest distinction from Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and studied at the Royal College of Music where she currently teaches. Ms Gulyak has appeared with countless renowned orchestras and conductors.

Muzio Clementi often regarded as the “Father of the Piano” composed more than 100 piano sonatas. Gulyak opened the work with a robust chord that caught everyone’s attention. An abundance of keyboard virtuosity followed, rapid passages, trills that were particularly well done and tapered to perfection. The second movement marked Adagio e cantabile, con espresione countered the first movement with a beautifully performed melodic line in the right hand against a continuo arpeggio in the left hand. Tchaikovsky’s magic was captured by Pletnev and released on the keyboard by Gulyak. Left hand octaves were simply amazing! Phrasing in the Intermezzo through to the Andante maestoso was majestic, lines flowed with perfect continuity and the left hand cross-overs were crisp and punctuated the huge sound.

Gulyak performed the challenging technical demands of the Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue effortlessly demonstrating her deep musical talent and dramatic artistry.

The opening Medtner Fairy Tale was delightful with a sense of airiness. Rapid passages in the second provided sharp contrast while the third offered a touch of romanticism fused into its texture. The fourth offered a subtle combination of the first three with a virtuoso ending that brought sighs from the audience. Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 6 is the first of his Three War Sonatas and was composed during World War II. From the first movement Gulyak conquered Prokofiev’s ferocious temperament and harnessed the conflict between major and minor third dissonances with brilliant virtuosity and poetic soul. In the fourth movement designated Vivace, she projected lavish color and produced a wide spectrum of sound coupled with subtle nuances that emphasized the intended ebb, flow and surge of the work. Gulyak dug deep into Prokofiev’s work and brought out its very soul. This is an artist not to be missed!

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