Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

January 31, 2023

REVIEW: South Windsor Cultural Arts, "Liana Paniyeva"

Evergreen Crossings Retirement Community, South Windsor, CT 
January 29, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Liana Paniyeva
Although Ukrainian-born pianist Liana Paniyeva’s South Windsor program included no music written less than a century ago, her skillful choice of repertoire and the order in which she presented it made each selection sound new and fresh for contemporary audiences. 

Her opening set drew on her Slavic heritage, from a ravishingly warm Prelude, Op. 23/4, by Russian composer/pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff, and a tender folk-based “Dreaming,” by early Ukrainian master Mykola Lysenko, to two charming but rhythmically daring etudes and two attractively Scriabinesque “Poemes-Legends” by later Ukrainian composer Victor Kosenko.   

Next came an elegant account of Maurice Ravel’s 1905 “Sonatine,” with a lively opening “Modere,” a graceful “Mouvement de menuet,” and a vivid closing “Anime.” In sharp contrast was a pungent reading of Sergei Prokofiev’s five strikingly avant-garde 1914 “Sarcasms,” featuring a fiery “Tempestoso,” a harsh “Allegro rubata,” a furious “Allegro precipitato,” a turbulent “Smanioso” (“Frenzied”), and a hectic “Precipitosissimo” fading into a quiet “Andantino” close. 

Following the still cutting-edge “Sarcasms,” which could have been written yesterday, Paniyeva’s versatile treatment of Robert Schumann’s five 1839 “Carnival Scenes from Vienna” heightened their novelty, from her forceful opening “Allegro,” melancholy “Romanze,” fleet “Scherzino,” and dramatic “Intermezzo,” to her brilliantly exuberant “Finale.”

A leap forward in time brought a rhapsodic take on George Gershwin’s 1924 standard “The Man I Love,” in a knuckle-busting transcription by pianist Earl Wild, written in the spirit of 19th-century composer-pianist Franz Liszt, whose own arrangements for solo piano of two songs by Franz Schubert brought the concert to a nontraditional close: a lush, reflective 1826 “Serenade,” and a somber, even harrowing 1814 “Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel.”  

Her unassuming stage presence belied the power of Paniyeva’s nimble fingers, which didn’t hit a wrong note throughout this technically challenging program, and the unfailing sensitivity of her interpretations through such widely varied repertoire. The theater in this northern Connecticut venue offers warm acoustics and comfortable, accessible seating. 

SWCA, a nonprofit, volunteer-supported organization, has sponsored this free concert series for 40 years. All concerts take place on Sundays at 2:00 pm, and seating on a first-come, first-served basis begins a half-hour earlier. Next up is Israeli pianist Einav Yarden on February 19.