An impressive sold out audience was in store for an evening of equally impressive piano virtuosity on Saturday, February 17, when Ukrainian pianist Anna Fedorova performed a superb concert of favorite and well-known works sponsored by Bay Area Steinway Society. Due to the capacity plus audience, the beginning of the concert was delayed 15 minutes, but no one seemed to mind. Fedorova has won her share of competitions and has performed in many of the world’s prestigious venues around the world. Now Trianon Theatre joins the list.
The opening work was Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 27, No. 2 in C sharp minor, the familiar “Moonlight” Sonata. It became obvious that each of the three designated movements Adagio Sostenuto (the now “legendary” soul of the composition), Allegretto and Presto agitato offer a carefully calculated organic development as the work progressed from beginning to end. Beethoven indicated in the score that the first movement was to be performed senza sordini, with the sustaining pedal used throughout the movement. Subsequent scholars determined that this did not mean to hold the pedal throughout without changing the pedal, but rather to effect constant pedal changes as needed with the changing harmonies. Of course, we acknowledge and appreciate the incredible difference between the pianos of the early 1800’s that Beethoven knew and the magnificent Steinway D so wonderfully maintained by Technician Peter Acronico.
Although the composer’s creates a score, it is how the artist succeeds in interpreting it that takes us as close as we can gets to understanding the composer’s original intentions. The opening measures of the Moonlight Sonata were beautifully expressive and subdued. After a few seconds the singing quality of the melody gained prominence, while the left hand became balanced and supportive, with the melody keeping us mesmerized throughout. The second movement brought out an intended ebb and flow with intensified playfulness. The final movement reveled in Beethoven’s heightened intensity, and Fedorova took full advantage of it with bursts of sound and fluidly agitated passages.
The Chopin Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49 began with a slow somber cast — in a way reminiscent of the “Moonlight” Sonata. The iambic, weak vs. strong, punctuations were clearly stated and transitioned into delightful melodic lines with ever expanding artistic development. In the Scriabin Piano Sonata No. 2 in G sharp minor, Op. 19 (Sonata – Fantasy), one of Scriabin’s favorite works, Fedorova provided the composer’s intended contrasts. Once more, similar to the Moonlight Sonata, the opening is slow and the program notes of the time read “The middle section shows caressing moonlight coming up after the first darkness of night.” Fedorova realized the fast and intense tempo indications with brilliance and utmost control. The Mozart Fantasy in D minor, K. 397 opened the second half and offered surprising tempo changes, expressive embellishment and unusual rhythms, all beautifully calculated and performed by Fedorova.
The much anticipated Chopin Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58 was certainly the highlight of the concert. Throughout the work Fedorova delved ever more deeply into the music in her quest to decipher Chopin’s intentions. The weighty opening chords, which challenge the listener, developed into the more melodic second theme and carried us through the exciting development and deeply satisfying recapitulation. The fluid lines were expressive and seemed to float while creating a penumbra around the main theme. The rapidly flowing passages of the second movement seemed to suggest bees gathering pollen while hovering above the keyboard. The stately third movement brought to mind Chopin’s Marche funèbre in his Sonata No. 2. In the final movement Fedorova displayed masterful technical control, expressive dynamic changes and razor sharp rhythmic drive. Her wonderfully expressive control of dynamics and virtuosity took Chopin’s ideas to exalted heights. Contrast was found in a few artistically restrained moments before the fiery, tempestuous coda took us to the blazing climax.
The huge audience leapt to their feet before the last notes faded and applauded relentlessly. Fedorova rewarded their enthusiasm with two encores: a lovely Rachmaninoff Prelude and a Waltz by Chopin.