«The Berlin Piano Festival essentially took place within a few days at the end of May. Yet, as in other businesses, in concert management one needs to stretch to the limit—and since Zlata Chochieva, who was considered a much-preferred guest even before, had been unavailable earlier, there was an addendum on Wednesday.
This concert immediately turned out as a thrilling finale—almost as if everything Chochieva’s pianist colleagues (who had been exclusively male so far) had performed before was directed towards Sergei Rachmaninov’s D minor Sonata, Op. 28, which concluded the Moscow-born pianist’s recital, and served as a final chord to the whole festival. Admittedly, this sonata is a cumbersome work that somehow fails to get its picturesque plethora of thoughts—which are inspired by Goethe’s Faust—across in an orderly manner. Yet if we think of a South German Baroque church, we might prove similarly unable to grasp every single putto and ornament. As Zlata Chochieva’s performance unfolded, it was to be received just in the same way: as a sonic-spatial experience flowing through the hall, in constant alternation of light and shadow, yet following its own dynamic regularity. Remarkably, she defined every detail of her performance, from the brooding onset via the lyric melancholy of the middle movement to the cracking finale, within the organic flow of a superordinate whole—and this might be considered a deliberately shaped atmosphere, gaining its specific value from the interaction of the previous and the subsequent. This fascinating experience, unique in its intensity and homogeneity, was preceded by a somewhat fragmented, yet intelligently designed programme of 18 separate movements before and after the intermission. Rachmaninov, to whose sonata and four shorter pieces the second half was entirely devoted, thus acted as the mature executor of an East European, late-Romantic tradition. Already at the beginning, Rachmaninov had briefly appeared as arranger of Bach’s E major Violin Partita, giving the pianist the chance to roll some staccato sorceries off the cuff—a feature much less likely to be found in the ponderous and chordal pieces coming afterwards. Most charmingly, Chochieva succeeded in coalescing the sombrely glowing colours in the alternating performances of three Chopin and three Scriabin mazurkas. After that, she impressively introduced two late pieces by Franz Liszt as predecessors of Expressionist music. One of the Valse oubliées and the second Mephisto Waltz were both, despite their inherent splendor, presented in a sparse, skeletonised, and cubistically sharpened approach—heat and cold were not amalgamated to a lukewarm mélange but blended with each other in a flickering sonority.»