by Alex R. Travers
The auditory and visual pleasures of Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage are worth savoring. Its structurally powerful interior, for starters, gives the Hall a rich acoustic sound. Then, there’s the stage itself, elaborately detailed in the Classical style—the perfect frame for a Steinway & Sons concert grand piano. “It reminds me of concert halls in Russia, except with less gold,” my guest, a Moldovan-born amateur pianist, told me. Yet, for all its beauty, the big story is, in fact, about the performer.
On October 25, it was Russian pianist Katya Grineva, enjoying her 13th appearance at the revered Hall. Grineva now plays at several venues around the world each year. Last week, her concert, “Elements of Love,” opened with a true-to-form rendition of Chopin’s “Nocturne in E-flat major Op. 9, No. 2.” Played with delicate consonance, the overall structure was quite sophisticated.
Grineva’s sound is as expressive as Delacroix’s brushstrokes; the totality embodies a mixture of the real and the supernatural that we only find in our imaginations. That poetic/romantic articulation is a Grineva signature. Her tonal language can jump from austere to impetuously passionate. We heard that striking symbiosis in Liszt’s Concert Étude—“Waldesrauschen,” a lyrical melody filled with harmonic progressions. But whether it’s Listz, Schubert, or Bloch, you can’t help but to fall in and drown, only to be briefly pulled out by the how does she do it–type awe of her scrupulous technical mastery.
Then there’s the pianist’s handle on the subtle, which was most ethereal when the notes of Satie’s First Gymnopédie gracefully filled the hall. Nothing felt rushed or fussed. At times, its melancholy was enchanting. After Grineva’s finale, Bloch’s “Poems of the Sea,” she was met with a standing ovation. As I glanced at the program notes before I left, I noticed “Elements of Love” was devoted to Grineva’s mother, Irina. There is no doubt she would be proud.