Magic. We who are not magicians don’t understand how it’s done. But we recognise it when
we see it, or in the case of Alexander Gadjiev, hear it. It is not just about technical mastery of
the instrument, although that is a given, but also about the imagination and the ability to create
the suspension of time and sound and belief so that what seems unreal and impossible to mere
mortals becomes an experienced part of what we are hearing. And this presupposes a deep
understanding on the part of the performer as to the potential of the music to reveal ideas not
In a program mainly focused on the piano music of the early 19th century, these potentials
were explored and brought to the surface of conscious awareness to a quite remarkable degree.
Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann, both born in 1810 and fated to die before reaching the
age of 50, were the exponents of a new kind of composition that (along with developments in
the technology of piano building) made possible the extension of the expressive range of the
The works presented in this recital were particularly appropriate for Mr Gadjiev’s superb
pianistic skills. Chopin’s Prelude in C-sharp minor op. 45 began with an almost improvisatory
feel, almost as if the music were being created in this moment. New lights were shone on
individual notes and sonorities, sometimes allowed to stretch almost to what seemed like
infinity, but without the thread of the music ever being broken: the thought sustained as long
as the note was. And the rarely-heard (in my experience) Polonaise-fantasie op. 61 received
the same sort of highly imagined care, ranging from miraculous pianissimos to the martial
clamour of Chopin’s earlier Polonaises.
After the interval Mr Gadjiev embarked on Robert Schumann’s Fantasie op. 17, an enormous
work written over several years, that engages the whole armoury of the performer’s skills.
Reflecting Schumann’s own battles with bi-polar issues, this work ranges from delicately
shaped movement to the strident calls reminiscent of the “Davidsbündler” marches, all of
which were captured and dealt with by our soloist in a dazzling display of virtuosity.
The first item in the program was a new work by the Australian composer Colin Spiers, Eine
Kleine Nachtmusick, which Mr Gadjiev has premiered in his concert tour of Australia. Spiers’
work was chosen from a number of entries in a 2021 competition to extend the piano
repertoire. Here our soloist played two movements, “Hallway” and “Duality”. The first
movement began with sonorous rumbling in the lowest register of the piano, gradually
expanding and exploring the sonorities available by sustained clusters of notes, almost
seeming to reference the influence of Schnittke. By contrast, the second movement began with
percussive clarity and went on to create the sort of harmonic tracery that invoked the memory
of a star-gazing Debussy or Messiaen. The performance demonstrated a thorough
understanding of the musical idioms used by Spiers, leaving no doubt about the breadth of Mr,
Gadjiev’s musical intelligence.
And to cap off an extraordinary program, the audience was treated to encores not only of three
of Chopin’s Preludes from the opus 28, but also an improvised performance using three notes
hurled at the soloist from the audience, which he attacked as if re-composing Chopin’s 2nd
Scherzo op. 31 and went on to develop in altogether unexpected and delightful ways. All told,
this was an eye-opening and thoroughly satisfying concert in the Sydney International Piano Competition’s and NECOM’s ongoing service to the Armidale community.
Richard Peter Maddox