In May the world’s leading classical music label Naxos released the first CD of Ukrainian pianist Dmytro Choni, the winner of the first prize of the 19th Paloma O’Shea Santander International Piano Competition. The disc program focuses on the music of the 20th century and enchants with qualified professional playing.
A warm, pleasant timbre and an optimistic look at Claude Debussy’s “Images”, book 1 plays an important role in the pianist’s narrative tone. Lyrical diatonic landscapes in “Reflections on the water” are replaced by subtle outlines of chromatically new situations-images: somewhere a small stone fell, and a small circle blurred on the water. According to Margeurite Long, the composer interpreted some musical pictures of “Images” metaphorically. Both in the low-contrast echoes of the low registers in the left hand, the scattering of the portamento in the right hand and a moderate non-conventional tempo that could betray the imperfections of pianism, it is clear that the young pianist’s debut absolutely positively embodies his best features. Fresh, sometimes risky decisions with a rational formative approach to each performance, bright, clean touché along with an ambitious timbre search testifies the unobtrusive modesty of the performer’s brilliant play.
The collision of two epochs – XVIII and XX centuries takes place in the play “Tribute to Rameau” in the first bars. Ascetic melody, in contrast to the soft sigh intonations, on the disc sounds without deep bass, which would help to create a free “zone” in the middle range to expand its volume. The severity or coldness of Maurice Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin”, from which blows “What the West Wind Saw” by Claude Debussy, at the end of the work is replaced by a quiet confusion: the memory of the era existed while the work was heard – and disappeared with the last cadence of the major subdominant, igniting the salt-sharp minor final chord.
As usual in such matters the soloist retransmits overflows / gradations / echoes in plays of the “perpetual motion” type. According to the mood in the cycle “Movement” – the most successful and complete, similar to “Fireworks” by Debussy – is not devoid of short flashes, but not burdened by the “explosion”. “Fantastic, accurate”, – according to the author’s remark, it is in this play that the pianist gives the freedom to lightness and virtuosity, without distinguishing the timbre characteristics of all registers. A certain mechanicality of the play, closeness to urbanism is interpreted by the performer dynamically, with a focus on chordal consonances, and in other types of texture used by Debussy, Choni shows a bright impressionistic imagery.
“Images” Debussy can be translated not only as “images”, but also as “pictures”. Dmytro Choni’s performance is still more suited to the second option: the picturesque images created by the French composer in the pianist’s interpretation are transformed into paintings, carefully inserted into the framework of dynamic shades and timbre variety. Undoubtedly, they do not lack agogic deviations, tempo shifts and bold formative decisions. Only these exquisite frames compress the format of the canvas: so the paintings are left alone with their visitors-listeners… Yes, “pictures” do not move, and “water” does not sound, so Dmitry Choni manages to transfer the picturesqueness of piano figures to the author’s colorful background.
Alberto Ginastera’s first sonata sounds under the general Debussy’s line on this recording. The restrained turbulence and temperament of the performer cause situations of flirting with rhythm in the first part, each time slowing down the overall tempo, and the virtuosity of pianism confirms the high level of Dmytro Choni’s playing – as the “easyness” of the second part. Generous syncopation borders on it with significant textural statements-mentions of I. Stravinsky’s Sonata. The whole arsenal of XX century’s music until 1947: it’s the mysterious second part of the sonata where the whole compactness and either chronological or ideological perfection of the selected program of the disc is realized.
The “rigid” final playing of a student of the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz crowns the first Sonata of Ginastera, where the third part is a special “puzzle” of the sonata cycle, which in the work of the Latin American composer shapes understanding of the chosen genre model. Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata №6 will be the response and some arch on the CD, but firstly D. Ligeti’s “Arc-en-ciel” will cross its path.
In Etudes György Ligeti combines the compendium of his developed concepts and inventions with the problems of virtuosity and meanings, close to the etudes of F. Chopin, F. Liszt and C. Debussy. Dmytro Choni’s elegant “Rainbow” swing in black and white sounds like a glass tone at the high registers. After such a lyrical deviation of the music, which rises and falls, forming a multi-colored arc with its contours, the performer tries on the clear optics of Prokofiev’s pianism.
Sergey Prokofiev’s Sonata №6 becomes the highest point of the pianist’s debut CD. Sviatoslav Richter said: “the composer with barbaric courage breaks with the ideals of romanticism and includes in his music the destructive pulse of the twentieth century. Classically slender in its balance, despite the sharp corners, this one is incredible ”. The ostinato of the first part sometimes makes the soloist lose his “nerve” and keeps getting bored, Allegretto at first lacks ingenuity and joke, and gradually the second part acquires the features of marching playfulness and fades into the overall concept. The valse, Lentissimo in the best Juliet’s traditions of imagery requests more attention to the orchestral timbres, and the finale impresses with its spontaneity, organized in a powerful volitional impulse.
Dmytro Choni’s play deserves the highest praise. The pianist’s path is only at the start and his debut album is one of significant records dedicated to the twentieth-century music. A Psalm of Reflection: from the “Father of the Age” Debussy to Debussy in works and performances of Ginastera, Ligeti and Prokofiev.