Narek Hakhnazaryan – well on his wayPublished 9:34am Friday, February 15, 2013
A composer from Hakhnazaryan’s homeland, Adam Khudoyan (1921-2000), composed several sonatas for unaccompanied cello. We were treated to the first of these (1961) which Hakhnazaryan launched with gusto. This sonata vividly addresses the Armenian Genocide (1.5 million deaths between 1915 and 1923) and calls for most of the tools in the cello kit. It could certainly serve as an etude, but as aural and visual drama, it also offered a lot – folklike melodies, tricky combinations of simultaneous bowing and plucking, an intensely introverted section of eerie harmonics, and an avant-garde restlessness that made me feel a bit like a voyeur watching someone improvise a soundscape alone in his room.
Even more dramatic was “The Jew: Life and Death,” composed in 1995 by Mikhail Bronner (b. 1952). Polera returned to the piano and did a fine job with this challenging piece which was well suited to her bold style. There was no shortage of pain and emotion in this 12-minute work which required the rest of the tools in the kit. Hakhnazaryan hummed a low drone in places and whistled in others. Polera tapped her feet effectively in one section and used her aggressiveness to great advantage when underpinning scenes of distress and violence. This was both a showpiece and a showstopper played with commitment by both performers.
Closing this special evening were two accessible Tchaikovsky works – “Nocturne” and “Pezzo Capriccioso.” Both pieces compactly reveal Tchaikovsky’s well known lyricism and darkness and confirmed Hakhnazaryan’s depth and elegance.
The generous encore – “Variations on One String” by Niccolo Paganini – foreshadowed a long and important career for a young man who is disciplined, wise, and well on his way.