On Sunday, June 25, I traveled to Hamamatsu to listen to Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 by Gadjiev.
Chopin wrote two concertos for piano when he was young that have contrasting characteristics. The first is more technical, flamboyant, and larger in scale, and many of the techniques tested in the twelve pieces of the Op. 10 etudes are used there. In those days, the main purpose of piano concertos was to showcase the virtuosity of the piano. His No. 1 is a piece that follows this style.
On the other hand, No. 2 is poetic, introverted, and emotional. It is based on nocturnes, mazurkas, and other pieces by Chopin. I feel that it is a work that integrates salon-style music into the large-scale format of a concerto.
Chopin's two concertos do not show such extreme contrasts as Liszt's two piano concertos, which represent "yang and yin" or "extrovert and introvert”. Still, I believe that Chopin's deeper message should be read from the subtle differences between the two concertos. Chopin composed the first with a stronger awareness of his audience, and the second with a more personal message.
It seems natural that an intelligent and introspective pianist like Gajiev would choose No. 2 for the competition. A person listening to a recording of his performance of Chopin's Second Piano Concerto in the finals of the Chopin Competition without any prior knowledge of the performance would not at all feel that it was a performance in the piano competition. All that is apparent is the sincerity of a young pianist trying to serve the music. Of course, he must have been playing under terrible pressure, but the audience simply enjoyed the beautiful world of Chopin's music.
Gadjiev's performance of Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in Hamamatsu this time was, in my opinion, far superior to his performance in the finals of the Chopin Competition. This is because more subtle nuances were given and the expression was bolder. The music fluttered freely with a new sense of depth and scale.
In the first movement, the technical sixteenth-note passages were played with meticulously considered touch and showed a variety of expressions. Each note is given its own meaning, and the music is organically connected. Of course, the background of this is the outstanding technique and beauty of his touch, but that goes without saying.
The second movement is miraculously beautiful music written by the young Chopin. The melancholic and dreamy theme played by the piano in the upper register is simply fascinating. Throughout the movement, the fine notes show various expressions; they are not mere ornaments, but form the essence of the music. Piano technique and music are truly integrated. Gadjiev added an exquisite romantic flavor to each phrase. I sensed his maturity as his spirit flutters even more freely than last year. The dramatic middle section was presented with bold and eloquent expression.
In the third movement, the music was not only enjoyable with its light rhythmic expression, but it also expressed various nuances, making the music more multilayered and fulfilling.
The Fujisan Shizuoka Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Junichi Hirokami, performed wonderfully. The orchestra part of Chopin's concertos is often considered just an accompaniment to the piano, but this was not the case at all. In the tutti, all the members gave their fullest expression and were very convincing. I was also impressed by the exquisite ensemble that fits very well with the piano.
The encores were Chopin's Prelude Op. 28-4 in E minor and Debussy's Etude for Arpeggios from his 12 Etudes. I was particularly impressed by Debussy. Debussy's Etudes were among the last works by the composer and are often said to be abstract and esoteric. There is no denying that they are harder to understand than his earlier masterpieces such as the Preludes and the Images. To compose a piano etude, the technique should be at the heart of the consideration, and the composer finds it more difficult to achieve high musicality.
In this piece, however, Gadjiev took a completely different approach from that of a typical performance of an etude. I was surprised first of all at the dispersed chords in the right hand at the beginning of the piece, where each note was isolated and sparkled like a star. After that, the music never fell into an inorganic state, and it flapped its wings freely.
It sounded to me as if a story like the following was unfolding.
I was walking through the forest. There was a stream running through the forest, birds came and flew away, and I came across animals. After enjoying the various changes in the forest, I made my way back home in peace...
The various arpeggio patterns presented by Debussy sounded to me just like those episodes. That's only because Gajiev brought out a wide variety of musical substances.
In general, arpeggios tend to be played in a rather monotonous manner, but Gadjiev, while respecting the overall flow of the piece, sharpened his nerves to the nuance of each note and created a variety of expressions. The music as a whole was organically connected, rather than being a dualism of arpeggios and melodies. Listening to his free and joyful expression, I wondered if he even might have regarded this music as a dance piece.
Gadjiev was the winner of the 9th Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in 2015. He must have a special place in Hamamatsu's heart. The ladies sitting right behind me were yelling at the end of the performance (not common in Japan) and there were a couple of women waving Italian flags. The fact that he likes to play the local piano, the Shigeru Kawai, must be a delight for the people of Hamamatsu.
Gadjiev is steadily building a career as a top-level pianist, and I feel that he is a world-class treasure. I hope he will continue to grow steadily.