Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata No. 3. Barcarolle. Polonaise in B?,
Impromptu in G?,
Waltzes: in A?,
Ballade No. 3
Evgeni Bozhanov (pn)
FUGA LIBERA 579 (64:54)
The unappreciated young genius is one of the archetypal figures of classical
music. He turns up occasionally in piano competitions. Both Ivo Pogorelich and Frederic Chiu received major boosts to their careers from the publicity surrounding their elimination from competitions. Marshall McLuhan said charisma means that someone reminds you of a lot of other people you approve of. Similarly, piano competitions usually are won by artists who remind you of a lot of other pianists you approve of. Competitions generally are inhospitable to individuality and originality. Now, we have the case of the young Bulgarian pianist Evgeni Bozhanov. He entered the Queen Elisabeth, Van Cliburn, and Warsaw Chopin competitions and failed to win any of them. Along the way, he received laudatory press coverage, plus accolades from André Watts and Kevin Kenner. So what can we learn from his first solo album? That he is a splendid pianist who plays much better than a number of winners of the Cliburn and Chopin competitions I know of. Bozhanov’s performances are distinctive and imaginative. He never is at pains to show off his technique, but always presents a meaning that is both musical and refined.
Bozhanov’s Chopin recital is well thought-out and highly appealing. His Barcarolle is a beautiful reverie with fluid playing. In an early polonaise, he offers a distant echo of martial images, presented with great flexibility. Bozhanov plays the impromptu
and unusually sensitively. In the op. 64/3 waltz, you can envision the ballroom; different types of dancers are suggested. The op. 42 waltz contains an idealized dance displaying a hint of breathlessness. Bozhanov’s Third Ballade is highly atmospheric, alternating between delicacy and power. In the Third Sonata, he performs the last three movements without a pause, as does Nelson Goerner. The first movement is a gentle
, with a second theme full of suggestions and inferences. In the Scherzo, the second theme explores shades of darkness, while the first sparkles. Bozhanov gives us a very slow Largo, whose second theme possesses a timeless quality. He plays the finale with understated virtuosity, achieving the sense of agitation Chopin calls for—without sacrificing elegance. This is a major statement of the Third Sonata, in its way comparable to performances by Argerich and Hough.
The sound engineering is very good, warm and detailed but with a slightly veiled quality. Only time will tell if Bozhanov is a major pianist. We just can hope that the response to this album is such as to prompt more recordings by this artist, particularly in different repertoire. There is no doubt that he plays Chopin beautifully and distinctively. Bozhanov’s recital not only pleases but repays careful study. This time the hype got it right.
FANFARE: Dave Saemann
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