“Zlata Chochieva is a young, Moscow-born pianist who has been making the rounds of international competitions. She studied with Mikhail Pletnev, among others. Like most young Russian pianists recording today, excellent technique is a given with her. But more importantly, Chochieva is a Chopin player of style and charm.
The closest approximation I know of on CDs to Chochieva’s account of the études is the excellent version by Juana Zayas. Both Zayas and Chochieva make full use of the widest dynamic range of their instruments to bring Chopin’s tone pictures to fruition. Also, neither pianist (perhaps naturally) exhibits the machismo to show how extraordinary their chops are in executing these pieces. For example, Zayas only takes a minute longer to traverse the canonical 24 études than Andrei Gavrilov does, while Chochieva takes just two minutes more; yet Gavrilov sounds rushed and occasionally cluttered compared with the two ladies. There are some important differences, though, between Zayas and Chochieva. The latter observes greater and suppler freedom in tempo than Zayas, almost in an old school manner. Given this and the fact that Zayas strives more often for a generically large tone, Zayas’s performances can feel somewhat anonymous compared with Chochieva’s. And Chochieva employs a whole additional world of sound in her pedaling, which is thoughtful and judicious while always giving life to her tone quality. For a young pianist, Chochieva presents us with a most accomplished and striking set of the études.
Among the highlights of Chochieva’s études, the filigree in the right hand of op. 10/2 is exceptionally gentle and alluring. No. 3 is chaste in manner. Chochieva portrays No. 5’s Vivace with a twinkle in her eye. She succeeds in gracefully rendering the counterpoint in No. 7. No. 9’sAgitato is implied with the subtlest rumination of unease. No. 11 evokes the fashionable aristocratic salon. For the first étude of op. 25, Chochieva supplies a plush tone that is evocatively sostenuto. She displays unusual attention to rhythmic acuity in No. 3. The B section of No. 5 contains the most touching representation of grief. No. 6 follows without a break; I cannot tell whether this was the artist’s choice or an editor’s mistake. Chochieva is exceptionally fleet-fingered here. She gives us a tragic view of life in No. 7, with a wonderful manipulation of the piano’s darker tones. Her right hand depicts storms and tempests in No. 11. The last of the op. 25 études is vibrant and exquisitely proportioned. For the third of theTrois Nouvelles Études, Chochieva paints a gentle pastel of shifting colors.
The sound engineering on the CD is very good, full-toned and glowing but with a slightly murky ambience. My favorite recordings of the études are by Louis Lortie and Abbey Simon; both display exquisite virtuosity and interpretive poise. But I am very impressed with Zlata Chochieva, and her CD will occupy a worthy place on my shelf. Her reading is unusually distinctive, especially mature and insightful for such a young pianist. You can add it to whatever accounts you have without fear of your interest cloying or its losing its freshness and imaginativeness.”