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CHAMBER REVIEW

HALIDA DINOVA PLAYING SCRIABIN'S PRELUDE IN D AT JB PIANO

SHORT WORKS PROVE LONG ON CHARM

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 12, 2009

Russian pianist Halida Dinova returned to familiar territory on Feb. 12 — the recital stage at San Rafael’s JB Piano Emporium — and produced a concert short on major repertoire works but long on charm and drama. The small audience well knew what would be forthcoming: an evening of virtuoso playing, the best post-recital reception in Marin and a collegial atmosphere of shared musical delight.

The evening’s single work of extended duration, Haydn’s E-Flat Sonata (XVI 52), received a leisurely but sympathetic reading, surprising as the outer movements are usually played at high speed and the rhythmically complex Adagio given a greater dose of naughty humor. Dinova’s scales were masterful, never more so than in the finale, and the repeated note figures were brilliantly delivered. She nearly lost momentum several times in the first movement, overly prolonging the silences between the long phrases, but Haydn requires a delicate balance between artistic repose and ongoing urgency. The many hand crossings and off-beat accents were managed with perfection. Here and there little touches emerged — a rolled chord at the end of the Adagio, the elegant arpeggiated chords throughout the finale — and her crystalline scales were displayed throughout every passage, slightly staccato.

The rest of the recital consisted of twelve short works, perhaps a fitting farewell to a lengthy West Coast tour and a desire to disclose to local piano fans a wide variety of composers. She opened with two Chopin Waltzes from Op. 64, playing each with large tempo fluctuations that continued in a third and equally brilliant waltz, the E Minor, published after Chopin’s early death.

Debussy’s magnificent Reflet dans l’eau was the highlight of the concert, its arpeggios and cascading figurations resplendently performed. Dinova elicited an iridescent spectrum of color from the JB Emporium’s Grotrian 280 piano, both here and in a languorous but especially lovely Claire de lune.

Scriabin came next, the early Op. 11 Prelude in D properly wistful, and the composer’s most popular work, the thunderous Etude in D-Flat from Op. 12, which the dancer Isadora Duncan once described as a depiction of the suffering of the Russian people. Dinova playing of the Etude was dramatic without any pounding, even though she played the original version of the Etude score with the forte ending chords.

Tchaikovsky was also on the program, with the final two parts “The Seasons,” Op. 37b. Both the “Troika” and the concluding waltz “Christmas” were rendered with telling grace and rhythmic flexibility. Dinova’s supple left hand and chaste tone provided an object lesson that compositional mastery is most easily experienced in succinct pieces.

Four Rachmaninoff works ended the program, the most tempestuous being the E-Flat Etude Tableaux from Op. 33. Here all the elements were brought into sharp relief, and the broad melodic line was alternatively declamatory and elegiac. The three Preludes (Op. 23, No. 6; Op. 32, No. 5; and the popular Op. 23) seemed almost an anticlimax after the resounding Etude. Nonetheless, Dinova’s control of pianissimo and half pedal were breathtaking. One example: the last three chords of G-Major Prelude of Op. 32. Here each was invested with its individual personality, the pause between each was fragile, the melancholy palpable.

Two encores were offered, a Mendelssohn Scherzo with elfin octave playing, and Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s song “The Miller and the Brook.” Curiously the last was unsuccessful, as Dinova’s attack was harsh, the nostalgic charm lost in clangor and a lack of repose.

Though Dinova’s selections were mostly brief, she is a pianist with formidable interpretative and technical powers, and her recital was equal to her memorable JB recital of 2006, when she conquered the audience with the complete Chopin Preludes.