This past Wednesday, Casa Italiana showcased pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski. He performed selections from Philip Glass’s The Hours score as well as his own solo piano arrangements of Strauss’s Capriccio and “Four Last Songs.” This concert featured the premiere of Soukhovetski’s arrangement of the final scene of Verdi’s La Traviata. Traviata obsessor Alexandra Svokos was, naturally, there.
Soukhovetski is a very talented pianist. He is able to play complicated compositions with east and has very strong technique–if a little heavy on the pedal. His overall ability is very impressive, as demonstrated throughout his performance on Wednesday.
Traviata’s that opera I listen to once a month because I’m clichéd like that, but really I could sing to you the whole damn thing without missing a beat. It woudn’t be pretty, but it could happen. Soukhovetski apparently feels the same, but he has a piano and the technical ability of arranging and playing.
Soukhovetski’s arrangement of the final scene of La Traviata was a veritable musical play-by-play of the scene. This is an impressive feat: fitting a full orchestra and all singers into two hands on one piano is not an easy thing to do, but he managed it–and without making it sound like an accompaniment part.
Still, there is inevitably something lacking without the vocals. The drive of La Traviata comes from the human emotion onstage and is often influenced by the way the soprano chooses to represent the dying Violetta. In a piano arrangement, you can’t see a devastated girl stalk haltingly across the stage, or have someone interpreting the spoken reading of a letter, or hear Natalie’s heart-wrenching rip of “È tardi!”
I wondered why Mr. Soukhovetski chose to do this. It was such a literal interpretation of Verdi’s original music–yes, it’s beautiful, but what does it add? As I sat contemplating this, a little boy on his mother’s lap beside me began banging out the notes on his imaginary keyboard, really going in on those grandiose final chords. He reminded me that that’s why people like Soukhovetski do this, because beautiful music has to be shared and celebrated, in any way possible. So don’t be confused the next time you see me when I start singing a horribly off-key “Addio del passato” at you. I’m just handling my responsibility.