It was an enthusiastic audience that greeted pianist Halida Dinova at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Aptos yesterday afternoon. Since Ms. Dinova has appeared several times previously on the Aptos Keyboard Series, her fans had high expectations, and she certainly did not disappoint them on this occasion. A Russian trained virtuoso with a blistering technique equal to any challenge, she also demonstrated that she could on demand spin magic moments of expressive and poetic playing.
A special treat for us in this recital was the world Premiere of a new seven-minute work for solo piano, “Touch and Go” by Aptos composer Joseph Sekon. Mr. Sekon is also the founder and guiding light of the Aptos Keyboard Series @ St. John’s. We observed a formidable and intimidating-looking score containing several pages of varying sizes as it was spread out and stretched over the entire music desk of the Church’s new 7’6″ Kawai grand piano. The bold beginning of this work involved clusters of chordal fragments exploring the whole gamut of dynamics from ppp to fff, and it really grabbed our attention. An intriguing feature was the use of chromatic tonal clusters twice descending from top to bottom, and once ascending from bass to treble. There were also some arresting tonal clusters forming a repeated ostinato pattern in the bass that were quite effective with textures that were sometimes pedaled and sometimes more non legato. Ms. Dinova gave this piece a powerful and satisfying performance that earned her a standing ovation and lots of “Bravas!”
A group of Rachmaninoff pieces opened the first half of the program, and it was in the three Preludes from Op. 23 and 32 that Ms. Dinova immediately won our hearts. Two of the three Preludes were slow and expressive followed by the second most popular of Rachmaninoff shorter pieces, the brilliant Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5. To end the Rachmaninoff group, Dinova performed Polichinelle, a work so rarely performed that even the most obsessive piano buffs in the audience (myself included) had never heard it before.
In Ernst Bloch’s Waves (from Poems of the Sea) and in Debussy’s Réflets dans l’eau, we once again heard Ms. Dinova at her most expressive and poetic best in some truly lovely playing. Schubert was represented on the program by a solid performance of two Impromptus from Op. 90 and three beautiful Liszt transcriptions of Litanie, Auf der Wasser zu Singen and Der Erlkönig.
Ms. Dinova ended the program with an expressive group of Scriabin miniatures and the Sonata, Op. 30, No. 4. When the final applause finally subsided, Ms. Dinova rewarded the audience with a stirring encore, a performance of Scriabin’s magnificent Etude in D-sharp Minor, Op. 8 No. 12.
It was a happy audience that after greeting and speaking personally to Ms. Dinova eventually departed the Church. There is no question in anyone’s mind that she will be returning in the future.