Beethoven / Brahms / Debussy / Rachmaninoff / Stravinsky
Gartensaal der Villa Boveri, Baden, 2022-09-18
2022-10-22 — Original posting
Wiederbegegnung mit Oxana Shevchenko: Rezital im Gartensaal der Villa Boveri in Baden — Zusammenfassung
Nach Jahren der Wanderschaft von Kasachstan nach Moskau, London, Lausanne, Rom hat sich Oxana Shevchenko in St.Petersburg niedergelassen und eine Familie gegründet. Die Geburt von zwei Kindern hat ihre Konzerttätigkeit zeitweilig in der Hintergrund gerückt. Die russische Invasion in der Ukraine kam für die Pianistin—selbst ukrainischer Herkunft—als ein Schock. Hals über Kopf packte die Familie ihre Koffer, reiste mit dem Allernötigsten nach Estland, von da in die Türkei, fand schließlich in Israel (Haifa) zumindest vorläufig eine neue Heimat.
Für mich war dieses Solo-Rezital im Gartensaal der Villa Boveri in Baden die erste Begegnung mit der Künstlerin seit 4.5 Jahren. Oxana Shevchenko präsentierte ein Repertoire, das von der Klassik bis zur Mitte des 20. Jahrhunderts reichte: auf die Klaviersonate Nr.18 in Es-dur, op.31/3 (“Die Jagd”) von Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) folgte die Klaviersonate Nr.1 in C-dur, op.1 von Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897): eine klare virtuose und dramatische Steigerung.
Die Fortsetzung des Programms nach der Pause eröffnete mit den drei Estampes, L.100 von Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918). Nach diesem Exkurs in den französischen Impressionismus wechselte die Pianistin in eine Umgebung, die ihr von ihrer Jugend her sehr vertraut ist. Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943) hat zwei seiner Lieder für Klavier transkribiert: aus den 12 Romanzen, op.21 das Lied Nr.5, “Lilacs” (Flieder), sowie aus den 6 Romanzen, op.38 die Nr.3, “Daisies“ (Gänseblümchen)—zwei hoch-atmosphärische kleine Preziosen.
Russische Musik als Höhepunkt und Abschluss
Als Höhepunkt und Abschluss des offiziellen Programms folgten von Igor Strawinsky (1882 – 1971) die Trois mouvements de “Pétrouchka”—hochvirtuose Ballett-Transkriptionen, die der Komponist auf Anregung des Pianisten Arthur Rubinstein (1887 – 1982) anfertigte. Hier nun war Oxana Shevchenko vollends in ihrem Element—hat sie doch 2018 Strawinskys sämtliche Werke für Klavier zu zwei Händen auf CD eingespielt.
Als Zugabe schließlich der zehnte Satz, “Octobre” aus dem bekannten Zyklus “Les Saisons”, op.37a von Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowski (1840 – 1893): melancholisch, besinnlich, tief empfunden—für die Pianistin wie auch das Publikum eine Reflexion zu den menschlichen Tragödien, die sich gerade in der Ukraine abspielen.
Table of Contents
- Concert & Review
- Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.18 in E♭ major, op.31/3, “The Hunt”
- Brahms: Piano Sonata No.1 in C major, op.1
- Debussy: Estampes, L.100
- Rachmaninoff: Lilacs, op.21/5 & Daisies, op.38/3
- Stravinsky: Trois mouvements de “Pétrouchka”
- Encore — Tchaikovsky: X. Octobre from “Les Saisons”, op.37a
- Oxana Shevchenko’s All-Stravinsky CD Set
|Venue, Date & Time||Gartensaal der Villa Boveri, Baden, 2022-09-18 17:00h|
|Series / Title||Konzertreihe Marina Korendfeld — Klavierrezital Oxana Shevchenko|
|Organizer||Konzertreihe Marina Korendfeld|
|Reviews from related events||Concert reviews featuring Oxana Shevchenko|
Media reviews featuring Oxana Shevchenko
I have written about Oxana Shevchenko (*1987) in numerous reviews / blog posts (see the links above). Therefore, I don’t need to introduce her. However, the last encounter and concert review dates back 4.5 years. The world is a different one today. A lot has happened since then, and this inevitably has had its effect on the artist. I don’t want to go into detail, but let me just mention a few points on the consequences of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.
Oxana Shevchenko was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan where she also received her first piano lessons. She continued her education and graduated in Moscow. Further studies took her to London, Lausanne, and Rome (see her Web biography for details). In 2017, she got married and settled in St.Petersburg, where she gave birth to two children.
Ukrainian Shock Waves
For years, Oxana Shevchenko called herself a “Kazakh girl”. However, her ancestors are Ukrainian, and she still has relatives in or near Kiev (Kyiv). Not surprisingly, the Russian invasion in Ukraine on 2022-02-24 threw her and her family into a state of shock. Horrified, Oxana and her husband instantly cut all local ties. The family packed their suitcases and fled to Estonia. From there, they made it to Turkey, later moving on to Israel. For the past months, they have been living in Haifa, and Oxana has since received the Israeli citizenship.
The venue for this recital was a Gartensaal (garden hall). It is located in a two-story pavillion in the ample garden of a stately mansion (Villa Boveri), the home of one of the founders of Brown, Boveri & Company (BBC, now part of ABB), a big Swiss electrical engineering company. Today, the mansion, the garden house, and the big, surrounding park are owned by the city of Baden. The Gartensaal now serves as a small concert venue, holding an audience of up to around 100 people. On the podium, there is a mid-size grand piano (Steinway model A-188, if I’m not mistaken). Above the instrument, there is a painting inspired by (or an imitation of) “Venus of Urbino“, the famous erotic painting by Titian (Tiziano Vecelli, 1488/90 – 1576).
- Ludwig van strong>Beethoven (1770 – 1827): Piano Sonata No.18 in E♭ major, op.31/3, “The Hunt”
- Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897): Piano Sonata No.1 in C major, op.1
- Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918): Estampes, L.100
- Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943): Lilacs, op.21/5 & Daisies, op.38/3
- Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (1882 – 1971): Trois mouvements de “Pétrouchka”
The event was not sold out, but still attracted a fair number of people. From the time when she lived in Switzerland, many people in Switzerland know and like Oxana Shevchenko. And the artist has previously performed in this venue.
My seat was in the center of row #3, a few meters from the podium.
Concert & Review
Prior to Oxana Shevchenko’s official program, the organizer offered a pre-program “Young Talents”, featuring two piano pupils:
- The first of the young artists was Emmeline Chloe Hadeli, a young pianist (age: 9) who presented two pieces:
- an impressive performance of the Nocturne No.56 in B♭ major, H.37 by the “inventor of the Nocturne“, the Irish pianist, composer, and teacher John Field (1782 – 1837), a beautiful, serene, slightly melancholic piece. One could easily see that Emmeline Chloe Hadeli had experience with appearances on stage. She has already performed at various youth competitions. She showed no signs of stage fright. Her performance was differentiated and careful in dynamics, articulation and agogics.
- The second part of her short recital featured a piece by Moritz Moszkowski (1854 – 1925), a German composer, pianist, and teacher who created a large oeuvre, including a large number of compositions for piano 2-hands. The selected composition is not untypical for this composer: a pleasant, short and virtuosic showpiece.
- The performance of the second pre-concert artist, a pupil aged 14, was less convincing, obviously less prepared. His performance featured two sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757):
- Sonata in F minor, K.466 (L.118): Andante moderato
- Sonata in C major, K.159 (L.104): Allegro
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.18 in E♭ major, op.31/3, “The Hunt”
Composer & Work
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) composed his Piano Sonata No.18 in E♭ major, op.31/3, “The Hunt” in 1802—the last in a group of three piano sonatas. The work features the following four movements:
- Scherzo: Allegretto vivace
- Menuetto: Moderato e grazioso — Trio
- Presto con fuoco
I have written about performances of this sonata in earlier concert reviews.
My impression: the opening movement not just served to establish contact with the audience. It also (consciously or subconsciously) helped determining how to adjust touch, articulation, and sonority of the mid-size grand piano to the venue, with the given audience size. Signs of this acoustic “exploration” may have been some extra volume and pedal in the portato crotchets in bars 3 – 5 and 12 – 14. And maybe a slight excess in crescendo in the ritardando to the fermata? With the advent of the repeated left-hand quavers in bar 17, the pace appeared very fluid—maybe almost too fluid to retain clarity in the fast figures in bar 53 (and later bars 177ff.)?
After the exposition (a period of mutual adaptation?) Oxana Shevchenko’s performance felt expressive, well-rounded, harmonious and engaged—just as I expected from previous performances by this artist.
The one thing I regretted is that Oxana Shevchenko left out the repeat of the exposition. Actually, throughout the recital, she omitted several repeats, particularly in sonata form movements. There are certainly repeats which one may safely regard optional (e.g., in Da capo segments). In a sonata form, however, I feel that this negatively affects the proportions of the composition. I’m sure Beethoven didn’t add repeats signs purely to follow a given convention.
On the other hand, the duration of a recital is limited. I know that Oxana Shevchenko carefully lays out her recital programs, considering a musical arch and dramaturgy, as well as balance in physical load (and recovery). And she certainly aims at presenting a broad repertoire within the given time frame. For the listener, it comes down to a compromise between musical completeness and breadth of the repertoire or the musical experience. And sure: more variety is often a desirable bonus…
II. Scherzo: Allegretto vivace
The Scherzo followed quasi-attacca. And ah, this left-hand staccato, its lightness and precision: truly allegretto vivace! Already in my first virtual encounter with Oxana Shevchenko’s playing (on YouTube, from a performance back in 2010) I admired her staccato technique. Here, I equally liked the expressive, lively dynamics—enthralling, and never dropping the tension even a bit!
III. Menuetto: Moderato e grazioso — Trio
Gentle, subtle in dynamics and agogics: I really liked the narration, the little ritenuti: beautiful! Here, Oxana performed both repeats in the initial Menuetto instance. She also did the first repeat in the Trio, but then jumped to the conclusion of the second part (without repeat, of course). A well-hidden mishap, presumably? I only noticed it because I was following the score…
IV. Presto con fuoco
The final movement followed attacca: a movement “to Oxana’s taste”! Excellent in the lively dynamics, the refreshing immediacy of the sf accents. In all this, the pianist kept her touch well-adapted to the sonority, the characteristics of the mid-size grand piano.
Overall Rating: ★★★★
Brahms: Piano Sonata No.1 in C major, op.1
Composer & Work
The Piano Sonata No.1 in C major, op.1 is a work that Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) wrote 1853 in Hamburg. It is actually his second piano sonata, but as he felt that the C major sonata was of higher quality, he published it first, prior to what is now known as his Piano Sonata No.2 in F♯ minor, op.2. The sonata op.1 features the following four movements.
- Andante (Nach einem altdeutschen Minneliede)
- Scherzo: Allegro molto e con fuoco — Più mosso
- Finale: Allegro con fuoco — Presto non troppo ed agitato
The second movement “after an old German love song” features a melancholic melody, under which the composer noted the text of the original folk song “Verstohlen geht der Mond auf“:
Verstohlen geht der Mond auf,Stealthily the moon rises,
blau, blau Blümelein,
durch Silberwölkchen führt sein Lauf:
[ blau, blau Blümelein ].
Rosen im Tal, Mädel im Saal, o schönste Rosa!
Blue, blue floweret!
His pathway is through silvery clouds;
Roses in the valley, girl in the hall, oh most beautiful Rosa!
Translation via www.lieder.net. Text in brackets added by Brahms, who also altered the interpunctuations.
With the “full-fingered” pianistic virtuosity in the Brahms sonata, we definitely moved right into “Oxana’s home turf”. She attacked this movement with verve and momentum, and full of expression. The movement opens with grandiose gestures / fanfares—a theme so typical of this composer!
Brahms wouldn’t be Brahms, if there weren’t sudden switches to lyrical, melancholic, even intimate moments. Here, there is a sudden p / ritenuto un poco—for a single bar. Prior to the con espressione / dolce in the following bar, Brahms specifies a tempo. However, Oxana Shevchenko kept a slightly slower pace, with extra rubato, which then harmoniously led into the Poco ritenuto (second theme). The artist made it easy to follow the inner / hidden voices in the pp / sospirando bars.
The rubato in the subsequent segment (a succession of changes in mood, so typical of Brahms!) harmoniously led into the fulminant closure of the exposition. The development part culminates in a broad ff climax. It was amazing to note the volume, the excellent sonority that the artist was able to produce from the mid-size instrument.
II. Andante (Nach einem altdeutschen Minneliede)
After the presentation of the melancholic Lied theme, Oxana Shevchenko gradually and consequently built up tension, even suspense, while staying the pensive, reflective mood, except for the momentary, expressive eruptions around the climax. A resting atmosphere, which somehow reminded me of Der Dichter spricht, the last piece (No.13) from Kinderszenen, op.15, by Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856). A very atmospheric interpretation, in which the artist never lost the “thread”, the narration, full of peace and beauty!
III. Scherzo: Allegro molto e con fuoco — Più mosso
Allegro molto e con fuoco, indeed! Oxana opened this with lots of momentum at a fluid pace, even accelerated across the theme: another movement that suits the artist’s pianistic strengths!
Then, this contrast to the “Trio”, i.e., the Più mosso part! The composer plays tricks on the listener: while the Scherzo is in 6/8 (two beats per bar), the Più mosso is in 3/4 time (3 beats per bar, hence indeed faster). However, the writing implies entire bars as rhythmic foundation, so the Trio actually feels slower, calmer. In Oxana’s interpretation, it sounded like an initially lyrical aria, later gaining expression, up to a dramatic climax. Brahms breaks off the subsequent relaxation with a cataclysmic, forceful return to the Scherzo.
Here, Oxana Shevchenko performed the initial repeat in both the Scherzo and the Più mosso.
IV. Finale: Allegro con fuoco — Presto non troppo ed agitato
A virtuosic, technical challenge with rhythmic intricacies—a challenge mastered very well, indeed! Oxana Shevchenko took the G major section (con espressione) noticeably slower, lyrical and cantabile. If there was a “hair in the soup”, it wasn’t the artist’s fault: the tuning of the instrument appeared to have degraded. However, that impression vanished with the return of the virtuosic, initial theme. Also the initially lyrical A minor segment (6/8, then 9/8) was not affected.
Such great music, so virtuosic—and greater than the instrument, I should say! In the Presto non troppo ed agitato coda, the artist went as far as sacrificing some clarity in favor of excitement and expressive sonority.
Overall Rating: ★★★★½
Debussy: Estampes, L.100
Composer & Work
Estampes, L.100, by Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918), is a work from 1902. It consists of three movements:
- “Pagodes” (Pagodas): Modérément animé (moderately animated)
- “La soirée dans Grenade” (The Evening in Granada): Mouvement de Habanera
- “Jardins sous la pluie” (Gardens in the Rain): Net et vif (clean/neat and lively)
I have written about performances of Estampes in earlier reviews (one full performance, two performances featuring a single movement as encore).
The first half of the recital built up from Beethoven’s “early middle period” to the virtuosic power, the expressive intensity of the 20-year old Brahms. After the intermission, Oxana Shevchenko jumped to the 20th century, beginning with Debussy’s French impressionism (a term that Debussy vehemently rejected!). Interestingly, Estampes was composed exactly 100 years after Beethoven’s sonata op.31/3, “The Hunt”.
Debussy’s Estampes certainly are not devoid of challenges—however, the music is reflective, atmospheric. Oxana Shevchenko took it as starting point for a second, dramatic / virtuosic build-up. This ultimately culminated in Stravinsky’s enormous technical challenges and expressive turmoil.,
I. Pagodes: Modérément animé
It’s amazing how Debussy and the artist were able to evoke a far-Eastern scenery around Indonesian Gamelan music—within very few notes / bars! Reflective, meditative, resting—simple, clear textures, yet creating an atmosphere that felt “veiled”, almost foggy. I pictured a gentle, errant wind playing with objects in the brightness of mid-day sunlight…
The constantly changing rhythmic pattern leave the listener with a feeling of uncertainty. Even where there are well-defined rhythmic pattern and melodic elements, artist and composer kept the pace (seemingly freely) floating, “breathing” in ample space, reflections, wandering resonances, richness and void…
II. La Soirée dans Grenade: Mouvement de Habanera
An interesting annotation at the top: Commencer lentement dans un rythme nonchalamment gracieux (“begin slowly, in a nonchalantly graceful rhythm”). Oxana Shevchenko let the music appear and take shape out of a void (ppp, pp). The music alternates between Tempo giusto and Tempo rubato, switching to Très rythmé, then again Tempo I (avec plus d’abandon), and instances of léger et lointain (lightly, and far away). Just following the annotations is interesting by itself!
With very few, momentary exceptions (one is the Très rythmé segment, mf en augmentant beaucoup, growing to ff), the entire piece is p, pp and ppp. In Oxana Shevchenko’s interpretation it felt like a distant dream that momentarily materialized. And the end was like a strong reminiscence of the Gamelan sounds in Pagodes. Excellent performance!
III. Jardins sous la pluie: Net et vif
Highly atmospheric again, playful, with the children’s tunes / rhymes appearing here and there, almost erratic (mystérieux!), culminating in flashes, reminding of fireworks: enchanting!
Overall Rating: ★★★★½
Rachmaninoff: Lilacs, op.21/5 & Daisies, op.38/3
Composer & Work
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943) created several series of songs for voice and piano, such as
- 12 Romances, op.21, composed 1900 – 1902, and
- 6 Romances, op.38, composed 1916
Years later, the composer arranged two popular songs from these collections for piano solo:
- From the 12 Romances, op.21 the song No.5, “Lilacs” (сирень), Allegro ma non tanto, F♯ minor (arranged 1947 – 1948), and
- from the 6 Romances, op.38 the song No.3, “Daisies” (маргаритки), Lento, F major (arranged c.1922, revised 1940)
From the two collections, these are the only ones that Rachmaninoff transcribed for piano. Transcriptions of other songs from op.21 were created by other arrangers.
The remainder of Oxana Shevchenko’s recital was an excellent opportunity to witness an authentic interpretation of examples of great, genuine Russian music. At a time of Putin’s invasion into Ukraine, the term “Russian music” may perhaps have a derogatory connotation to some (not to me, for sure!). Nevertheless, it is the music that Oxana Shevchenko grew up with, in which she must still feel “at home”. As much as she despises anything relating to the invasion. Actually, it would be a big mistake to “throw out the baby with the bath water” by condemning the works of the many great Russian composers.
What started off as a seemingly harmless salon piece evolved into a atmospheric music, culminating in a glittering, virtuosic climax. Beautiful, charming!
Another little gem, very atmospheric. Longing, forlornness, melancholy, dreaming, hesitant, contemplating, memories…
Stravinsky: Trois mouvements de “Pétrouchka”
Composer & Work
The name Oxana Shevchenko almost automatically makes me think of Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (1882 – 1971) and his piano music. I was fortunate enough to witness her perform the bulk of his oeuvre for piano solo in concert. Oxana Shevchenko also has recorded Stravinsky’s complete works for solo piano on CD, see the description below.
Here, she concluded her program with Trois mouvements de “Pétrouchka”—three excerpts from Stravinsky’s ballet “Pétrouchka“, which Stravinsky transcribed upon suggestion by the pianist Arthur Rubinstein (1887 – 1982). This includes the following titles
- Danse Russe (Russian Dance)
- Chez Pétrouchka (Petrushka’s Room)
- La semaine grasse (The Shrovetide Fair)
I have written about several solo recitals featuring the Trois mouvements de “Pétrouchka”, including also other artists.
Stravinsky’s piano works are at the center of Oxana Shevchenko’s pianistic competence. It is for good reason that four years ago, she has recorded the composer’s complete works for piano 2-hands. See the media description below for information. Besides that, I have written about two independent concert performances (2016 and 2017) of the Trois mouvements de “Pétrouchka” by this artist. So, I won’t repeat my detailed eulogy here.
I was interested to see whether (and how much) Oxana Shevchenko’s interpretation of these three movements has changed / matured over the past years. I must say: it is as competent, enthralling, compelling and fascinating as back then. Stating that the performance has become more rounded, maybe more harmonious already means stretching my mind! Sure, it wasn’t 100% perfect. How could it be, in a piece that the composer notated on (sometimes) four systems—for an artist with two hands only? In any case, who am I to criticize a performance of one of the most challenging pieces of piano music anyway?! It certainly was fascinating to realize how much orchestral sonority Oxana Shevchenko was able to create / evoke from a mid-size grand piano!
Encore — Tchaikovsky: X. Octobre from “Les Saisons”, op.37a
Composer & Work
Naturally, I was curious to see what Oxana Shevchenko would select as encore. She turned to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) and his cycle “Les Saisons”, op.37a, selecting the tenth piece, X. Octobre in D minor (Chant d’automne, with the annotation Andante doloroso e molto cantabile).
It’s a deeply melancholic elegy. The underlying poem “Autumn, our poor garden is all falling down, the yellowed leaves are flying in the wind.” is by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy (1817 – 1875). I have no doubts that this choice wasn’t just meant to be a contrast. Nor was it merely a way to relax after the highly virtuosic, power-draining movements from Stravinsky’s “Pétrouchka“. Rather, at least in parts, it must have been a reflection of (or a reaction to) the ongoing human tragedy, the Russian invasion in Ukraine (see above).
I have so far heard several excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons” in Oxana Shevchenko’s recitals (January, February, March, May, November). This one was a first, and it was as intense and atmospheric as all the others. Actually, given the circumstances, if felt deeper, even more melancholic (and sad), and more heartfelt as the earlier performances. Tchaikovsky “by the book”, intensified by the ongoing tragedy in Ukraine. A most fitting conclusion, maybe even a necessary one, given the circumstances?
Oxana Shevchenko’s All-Stravinsky CD Set
Stravinsky: Complete Music for Solo Piano
Delphian DCD34203 (2 CDs, stereo); ℗ / © 2018; Booklet: 12 pp. English
For a detailed description of the CD set and its contents see my media review from 2019-01-02.
The author would like to express his gratitude to Oxana Shevchenko, and to the organizer, Ms. Marina Korendfeld, for the invitation to this concert.
2 thoughts on “Piano Recital Oxana Shevchenko — Baden, 2022-09-18”
What a lovely experience. And how I envy that venue. Concert halls are no place for piano recitals. Deft, comprehensive and yet affective writing. After reading your reviews I always rush to YouTube to hear the music for myself.
Thanks for your comment, Tom! Yes, the venue is nice. Maybe a tad bigger (especially in times of a pandemic), and a real concert grand would make it even better? In any case, I won’t be there very often, as I try limiting the number of concerts, given my review overload. I have a backlog of four reviews right now—and I keep getting invitations to concerts & festivals…