There have been few true virtuosos of the harp. The world has seen such stellar players as Carlos Salzedo and Nicanor Zabaleta, and today, Nancy Allen and Yolanda Kondonassis are the superstars of the instrument.
Soon, however, a new name may be added to that exclusive list 17-year-old Varvara Ivanova. The young Russian shows every indication of rising to the top with her chosen instrument.
Varvara was in recital in Salt Lake City Friday, four days after making her New York City debut in Merkin Hall with the same program she played in Libby Gardner Concert Hall.
The young artist is quite simply a remarkable musician. Virtuosity and musicality are evident in equal measure in her playing. She treads the entire gamut of emotions and expressions in her interpretations, from tender, delicately sculpted lyricism to dramatic passion and bold gestures. But throughout, her playing is tempered with refinement and finesse.
Most of Varvara's program consisted of transcriptions she made of keyboard works ranging from J.S. Bach to Chopin and Ravel. These pieces were well-chosen and spotlighted the versatility and expressive qualities of the harp to the fullest.
Varvara opened her recital with two Bach works, the well-known Toccata and Fugue in D minor and the Prelude in E-flat minor from "The Well-Tempered Clavier," Book I.
The rich contrapuntal garb of the toccata and fugue was displayed wonderfully in Varvara's interpretation, while in the prelude she captured the work's delicate lyricism with her seamless playing.
Ravel's shimmering "Jeux d'eau" followed. Varvara's reading was technically superb and musically exquisite. She also displayed some nimble pedal work throughout the piece.
After three pieces by Chopin (Waltz in A minor, op. 34, no. 2; Waltz in F minor, op. 70, no. 2; Fantaisie-Impromptu, op. 66), which she played with radiant expressiveness, Varvara closed out the first half with a striking performance of harpist/composer Wilhelm Posse's virtuosic take on "Carnival of Venice," a work that demands the utmost from the performer in terms of technical skill and dexterity.
The second half of the recital included two transcriptions Brahms' reflective Intermezzo, op. 117, no. 2, and Tchaikovsky's captivating "Dumka," op. 59.
In between these, Varvara dazzled the audience with Marcel Tournier's Sonatine, op. 30, and Mikhail Mtchedelov's demanding Variations on a Theme of Paganini. Tournier's Sonatine is an exquisitely lush impressionistic piece. Varvara's interpretation captured the subtle nuances and colorations of the music.
In complete contrast to the Tournier is Mtchedelov's Variations, which is a stunning tour de force based on Paganini's famous A minor Caprice. Varvara was impressive in the way she tossed off the technical demands of the piece with ease.
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