Pianist Tanya Gabrielian Performs Khachaturian Concerto with Monterey Symphony

Pianist Tanya Gabrielian and Conductor Max Bragado-Darman

Yesterday evening at Sunset Center in Carmel the Monterey Symphony continued the second in its series of this season’s concerts featuring the piano. Guest artist, brilliant young pianist Tanya Gabrielian, was on hand to perform the Khachaturian Piano Concerto. In addition to the Khachaturian Concerto Maestro Max Bragado-Darman completed the program leading the Monterey Symphony in Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destino and the Symphony No. 1 in E Minor by Jean Sibelius.

Monterey Symphony Executive Director Ed Feingold addressed the audience before the concert to announce that 30 young musicians, members of Youth Music Monterey County (YMMC) Honors Orchestra, would be joining the Monterey Symphony players in the Verdi Overture. In the past collaboration with YMMC has been reserved for the Salinas Concert at Steinbeck Hall, and thus this was the first time the collaboration was taking place at Sunset Center. After the regular orchestra members were seated, out trooped the 30 young players with their YMMC Conductor, Farkhad Khudyev to take a bow and be recognized by the audience. Although during the performance of the Verdi Overture, with the 30 extra members, the stage looked a bit crowded, the augmented orchestra gave us a fine performance full of vitality and and its usual charm. Hopefully, we will see more examples of this collaboration in the future.

In May 2010 twenty-seven-year-old pianist Tanya Gabrielian was the Grand Prize Winner in the Carmel Music Society’s Piano Competition, and in 2011 she returned to play a full recital on the Carmel Music Society’s series to high critical acclaim. The Monterey Symphony is to be congratulated for recognizing the synergistic benefit of selecting some of the best of the Carmel Music Society’s many fine competition winners as subscription series soloists this season. Although we have heard Gabrielian perform twice in recital, this was our first opportunity to hear her as a concerto soloist, and it was a knockout performance.

Conventional wisdom often proclaims William Kapell’s performance with the Boston Symphony, recorded in 1945, as the gold standard for the Khachaturian Piano Concerto, but last night at Sunset Center Gabrielian knocked one out of the ballpark. This was magnificent playing. It was full of violent and strident passion, but balanced with tender pathos in the tender slow movement. One of the interesting features of the Khachaturian Concerto is the presence of several extended passages of solo piano with the orchestra tacit. These are not actually cadenzas since they do not perform the function of winding up the end of movement to its final cadence, but rather are soliloquies interjected into the orchestral fabric and are unique to this concerto. These soliloquies were fascinating in the way they permitted us to hear Gabrielian’s artistry unfettered and uninhibited by the orchestral fabric. Power and virtuosity of a high order were evident in all three movements, and her absolute mastery of every technical difficulty seemed effortless. This concerto presents opportunities for relentless, merciless banging by lesser artists, but there was none of it on this occasion. It was amazing how much volume and clarity she achieved without straining the resources of the Monterey Symphony’s fine new Hamburg Steinway concert grand.

Maestro Max Bragado-Darman and the Monterey Symphony finished off the evening’s concert with a powerful and moving performance of the Sibelius Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, a feat he accomplished in this long (forty minutes) and complicated score conducting from memory. We heard some fine playing from the strings, and lots and lots of excellent solos by members of the woodwinds and brass section.

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