In years before and since 2011, Ketevan Kartvelishvili has won first prize in one piano competition after another in the United States. To the lucky patrons of the Dame Myra Hess concert last Wednesday this should come as no surprise. Playing what she describes as some of her favorites and all “action music”, her energy and technique were thrilling to behold.
The pre-concert scene was one of quiet murmurs in the hall as the seats filled. DCASE volunteer Mary Lou Schoenegge was as usual offering cookies to the crowd, whom she describes as “my hundreds of closest acquaintances”.
There were some giggles and many looks to their seats when International Music Foundation Director Ann Murray in her introduction pointed out that most of the audience had new chairs. Otherwise, it was a particularly quiet pre-concert gathering.
Then, Ketevan came out in a sparkling gown and shiny black pointed patent leather shoes that patrons up close would soon get to see energetically working the piano pedals through the concert.
As if to tickle us alert, Ketevan played the short “Keyboard Sonata in C Major, K. 159 by Domenico Scarlatti that you can also hear her playing in this YouTube link--
She followed with the similarly short Scarlatti composition “Keyboard Sonata in F minor, K. 466”. The program kept stepping up in energy as she then performed Sergei Prokofiev’s “Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83” and concluded with Franz Liszt’s “Rhapsodie espagnole, S. 254”.
Though these pieces came from four different musical eras they all seem tied together by a driving energy—at times perky, at times with sonorous flourishes of chords, here and there with snippets of singing music boxes, and mounting to such a point with the Liszt at the program’s conclusion that it was quite natural to jump to your feet and applaud.
Ketevan shares that she chose to play Sergei Prokofiev’s “Piano Sonata No. 7 in B-flat Major, Op. 83” especially because it is technically difficult and gives her a chance to show her abilities and “big energy”, which you can see in her performance of this piece in this YouTube clip here—
In a pre-concert discussion Ketevan shared her feelings about why she very much enjoys symphonic performances but usually prefers solo performances to chamber, that later were much on display by the vitality of her performance. She says, “It is more hot when I perform solo. It’s more interesting to me because I’m the only one on stage and everything depends on me. I like this feeling of difficulty that comes from knowing that I am the only one.” Indeed, she was the picture of someone thriving in the pressure of the one-woman show.
A native of Georgia, Ketevan recently completed her graduate studies at Indiana University at South Bend. She has been playing the piano since she was five years old and enrolled in music school by the age of seven, then entering the Tbilisi Music School for Gifted Children when she was only 12. It has been a foregone conclusion that she would be a pianist since that time, though she also has a strong interest in both painting and dance.
Her schedule currently doesn’t allow her to dabble in those serious avocations. She is ramping up a busy performance schedule and at the same time must devote attention to assembling papers to get a VISA to stay in the United States.
Though her physicist parents remain in Georgia, she is happier with music education in America and that likely plays a part in her desire to stay here. Ketevan shares, “In the United States it is more flexible and students can do whatever they want. If they have their own ideas they can follow them. This made it more enjoyable for me as a student. I’m freer here and can show my personality whenever I’m performing on the stage. Now though, wherever I come to perform in the world it will be the same because I am bringing my personality to the performance and have been encouraged to do so.”
The Dame Myra Hess Concerts bring world-class talents such as Ketevan Kartvelishvili to perform at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 East Washington, Chicago, every Wednesday at 12:15 for approximately 45 minutes. These concerts are free of charge and also simulcast on WFMT.
For more information on upcoming concerts visit the International Music Foundation website.
Photos courtesy of Ketevan Kartvelishvili unless otherwise indicated