Music – BBC SSO

Zlata ChochievaZlata Chochieva
Zlata Chochieva
Karl-Heinz Steffens, music director of Prague State Opera, has appeared with the BBC SSO before, but this concert – a Romantically-charged 
programme of Sibelius.


City Halls, Glasgow


Chopin and Schumann – is likely to be one that will stick in minds, and encourage more visits by the former principal clarinet of the Berlin Philharmonic.

It opened with a moment of instant captivation – a molten bed of succulent strings, from which emerged the sultry, soulful cor anglais and plaintive solo cello that define the mystical narrative and soft-centred sound world of Sibelius The Swan of Tuonela.

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Its comforting mood was perfect preparation for Chopin’s Piano Concerto No 1, and the mellifluously spun SSO debut appearance of 34-year-old Russian pianist Zlata Chochieva.

Completely void of artificial affectations, and negotiating Chopin’s filigree passagework with effortless, liquid finesse, her performance was a 
triumph of natural expression and unswerving musicality.

Steffens responded to her every nuance, shaping the orchestral phrases with reflective intuition, coaxing delicious sounds from Chopin’s notoriously undernourished orchestral writing – though the only effective solution to the awkward trumpet writing would be to rescore it – and ensuring this performance was not just about the virtuosity of the soloist.

That moment came with Chocheva’s inevitable encore, the dexterous thrills of Chopin’s Black Key Étude, as mesmerising to the eye as to the 

Steffens ended with Schumann’s Second Symphony, again allowing inspired textural detail – aside from the very occasional imbalance – to offset Schumann’s repetitive tendencies and elicit a meaningful cohesion.

The concert programme is repeated at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall tomorrow at 3pm.

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