man playing piano

Pavel Nersessian

GREENVILLE, NC – The East Carolina Piano Festival 2024 brought to the stage the incredible Pavel Nersessian, piano, in a performance of an all-Chopin program. The Piano Festival brings together pre-college (grade 6-12) & college students (through age 26) to work with faculty and guest artists. The lobby and hall were full of wonderfully eager young people.

Fletcher Recital Hall does not usually impress as intimate or warm; this event was very different. Nersessian appeared on stage dressed in a soft tunic and dark trousers and shoes. He sat gracefully at a piano devoid of printed music, looked into the piano and not at the audience, and played a brilliant program as if he were alone by himself. The effect was embracing, gentle, and friendly.

First on the program were the three Nocturnes of Opus 15. The contrast in number one between the gentle beginning and end and the fiery middle was the first of many breathtaking moments of the concert. Nersessian’s playing is a splendid creation of contrasts, both achingly precise and clear and lush beyond words.

The Barcarolle, Opus 60, was a jaunty thing, with more contrasts, this time between fierceness and delicacy, and was followed by the Scherzo No. 4 (Opus 54).

The final piece before intermission was the Andante spianato et grande polonaise brilliante, Opus 22. The audience was totally enthralled by this point, with many standing in applause. Nersessian is the perfect pairing with Chopin, whose compositions are “I have these genius ideas which are pyrotechnic but wait, there are some more ideas that fit so well if you can play them!” And Nersessian’s soft notes are ppp and his loud notes are fff, perfectly complimenting each other, his genius bringing out Chopin’s genius in one glorious whole.

Following intermission came the four Mazurkas of Opus 67; these are so delicate, so easy to love, with no hard work for the listener. Next was some more serious meat, the steak in a sandwich of excellent rich bread, Trois nouvelles études, B 130. Nersessian’s power is unrivalled.

In the Ballade No. 3, Opus 47, Nersessian fully exploited the piano as a percussion instrument: how loud or soft can I play?, all the while demonstrating an incredible legato.

Nersessian concluded with Ballade No. 4, Opus 52, more of the same yet totally different and fresh, and brought the audience to its feet again. He returned to the stage with two encores, a small one and a big one, Etude in F minor, Op. No. 2 and Nocturne in A, Op. 32 No. 2. The evening was one brilliant light of fantastic music, courtesy of Nersessian and Chopin.