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"A Russian Pianist on a Tough Course With High Hurdles"

By Bernard Holland. "New York Times". Published: February 7, 2006.

Moscow-trained Ekaterina Mechetina, a Cincinnati competition winner, in a recital at Alice Tully Hall.


A week after Gleb Ivanov at Zankel Hall, another young Moscow-trained pianist has tested the musical waters of New York. Ekaterina Mechetina won the World Piano Competition of Cincinnati in 2004, and her recital at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday evening was evidently one of her rewards. Ms. Mechetina is another in a long and impressive line of racehorse Russian pianists; their outsize physical ability leaves them straining in their reins, and they are never so happy as when the course is tough and the hurdles are high.

Mozart's C minor Fantasy (K. 475) served the admirable purpose of grounding Ms. Mechetina's worst instincts and promoting her best ones. The same warm, varied tone and well-ordered sense of style served both music and musician in Rachmaninoff's "Corelli" Variations. Elsewhere, her headlong attempts to make an impression blurred the line between music-making and feats of strength and agility.

Indeed, it was startling to learn how fast this young woman can play Chopin's F major ?tude from Opus 10 or Rachmaninoff's version of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." It is too bad how both arrived so out of breath and squeezed of charm. The piano version of "La Valse" by Ravel is virtuoso complication taken to extremes, and Ms. Mechetina's enthusiastic dive into it produced a kind of rough, wild street brawl from which she emerged the winner although with scratches and bruises of her own.

There was Chopin's D flat Nocturne, leisurely done, and there were equally quiet and nicely played Rachmaninoff transcriptions of Tchaikovsky and Fritz Kreisler. But I wonder whether autumnal, contemplative music like Chopin's "Barcarolle" really survives the kind of impetuosity visited on it here. Rodion Shchedrin's "Tchastushki," at the end, was a clangorous high-speed chase full of big bangs and five-finger acrobatics. Ms. Mechetina reveled in its cheerful vulgarity.

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