Pianist Halida Dinova has been a familiar presence both in the Santa Cruz area and on the Monterey Peninsula in several solo recitals during the past ten years. Thus, it was no surprise that enough of her fans showed up to hear her perform on Sunday afternoon at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Aptos so that the presenters ran out of printed programs.
Tatar born Russian pianist Halida Dinova studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with legendary pianist Anatol Ugorski and at the Kazan State Conservatory with Natalia Fomina (a student of the famed Heinrich Neuhaus). Ms. Dinova also studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music where she received her Artist Diploma. She is the prize winner of three International Piano Competitions.
The excellent program she had chosen for the recital consisted of the Aria second movement from the Bach-Busoni Organ Toccata in C Major, the Liszt transcription of Schubert’s Auf dem Wasser zu singen, Chopin’s Fantasy in F Minor, Liszt’s Two St. Francis Legends, two works by Scriabin for the left hand alone and ended with the great Liszt B Minor Sonata.
It was a brave Ms. Dinova who struggled throughout the program in a battle with an ancient, 113-year-old Steinway that was blatantly out of tune and had a dull muffled treble that denied Ms. Dinova the clarity and brilliance needed to bring out the best qualities in each of the works she was performing.
Imagine this scenario. A friend picks you up at your home and drives you down to Big Sur to enjoy the lovely coastal views on a glorious, sunny day. As you settle into his restored, venerable 1920’s-vintage black Bentley, you notice that although the seats are very comfortable, the engine knocks and rattles, plus the suspension creaks and squeaks at every curve in the highway. The result: you are so distracted that you don’t really enjoy the journey.
So it was yesterday afternoon. We observed Ms. Dinova struggle (and sometimes succeed) in revealing the beauties of the Bach, Chopin, Liszt and Scriabin masterpieces she was performing. We could observe her masterful technique, admire her lovely cantabile and appreciate how she brings a seasoned mature artistry to everything she plays.
Unfortunately, it was on this occasion a losing battle against a uncooperative older Steinway that has seen better days. However, enough of her admirable musicianship managed to shine through and achieve moments of beauty so that she charmed the members of the audience, who gave her a standing ovation and were rewarded with a single encore — Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2.
Ms. Dinova deserves another return engagement so we can enjoy her artistry without the distractions of an unfriendly piano.