Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 5, 2022

REVIEW: Sevenars Music Festival, "Liana Paniyeva"

The Academy, Worthington, MA 
July 31, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

After studying, performing, and teaching in the United States for several years, Ukrainian-born Boston-based pianist Liana Paniyeva made a sensational Sevenars debut in a wide-ranging program of challenging and mostly unfamiliar repertoire. 

Liana Paniyeva
She opened with two of the sunniest preludes by Russian master composer/pianist Sergei
Rachmaninoff: a lush Op. 23/4 in D major; and a luminous Op. 23/6 in E-flat major. Then came a volatile “Fairy Tale,” Op. 20/1, by Rachmaninoff’s inventive but lesser-known fellow Russian composer/pianist and lifelong friend Nicolai Medtner. This was followed with two lovely miniatures by Ukrainian composers: a Chopinesque “Dream,” Op. 12, by “the father of Ukrainian classical music,” Mykola Lysenko; and a charming Etude, Op. 8/8, by Viktor Kosenko, which recalled early Scriabin.

Paniyeva’s next group began with two virtuosic Franz Liszt arrangements of songs by Franz Schubert: a haunted, flowing “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel;” and a pensive, caressing “Serenade.” It culminated in a dramatic fourth Ballade by Frederic Chopin, which epitomized the depth of keyboard sound, poetic sensibility, and talent for building climaxes that she had demonstrated in all the previous selections.

The first piano sonata by Robert Schumann was an unconventional choice to close her program, but this 1836 rarity gave Paniyeva a chance to champion a work she clearly believes in. Her total commitment found the unity in its sprawling structure, from a mercurial opening “Un poco adagio-Allegro vivace,” a ravishing slow “Aria,” based on an early song, and a lively “Scherzo: Allegrissimo,” with a surprise polonaise-like trio section, to a wildly discursive “Allegro un poco maestoso” finale, in which she wisely played down the “maestoso” (“majestic”) marking. 

With technical mastery to spare, a deep feeling for the grand Romantic tradition of piano playing, and a modest, all-business stage manner that focuses on the music rather than personal display, Liana Paniyeva has all the makings of a major solo career. 

Still to come at Sevenars are two more concerts: pianist Judith Lynn Stillman, flutist Rachel Braude, and violinist Charles Dimmick in music of mostly women composers (August 7); and the Bob Sparkman Trio, with clarinetist Sparkman and power couple pianist Jerry and bassist Kara Noble in their 20th Sevenars “glorious jazz collaboration” (August 14). 
Attachments area