How many of us can say that we began our careers at the age of 3 years old? That is exactly what happened to Georgian born classical pianist Inga Kashakashvili when she sat down at the piano in her third year and began studying with her mother, a pianist and teacher herself. Shortly after, at the tender age of 5, Kashakashvili made her first public performance and the rest of her career shot up from there, culminating in her latest recording To My Mother. Aptly titled given the circumstances of her early years learning to play at her mother’s side in the family’s home, the album features a variety of solo works from the classical repertoire by Beethoven, Haydn, Scriabin and Griffes, providing a wide view of the music that has inspired this immensely talented performer throughout her upbringing as a concert pianist.
The record begins with a fantastic interpretation of Haydn’s “Sonata in F Major,” which showcases the technical facility that Kashakashvili possesses on the instrument. This can be heard in the opening of the Allegro movement, the first of three in the piece, where Kashakashvili twirls her way through each passage with immense clarity. Melodic sections like this could easily become muddled or at least slurred in an attempt to perform them at this high tempo, but the pianist weaves her way through each passage with the greatest of each, separating each note along the way and providing an aural distinction that pops each note out of the piano and into the listener’s ear. Not a single note goes by that isn’t clear and precise, making the piece a joy to listen to from both a musical and technical standpoint.
The sound of the recording during the Haydn piece is also superb, which helps bring the clarity of Kashakashvili’s playing to the forefront of the listener’s experience. But, the sound changes to a more reverb-filled, concert hall experience during Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata Op. 101.” Here the playing is what one would expect from a seasoned performer such as Kashakashvili, but the recording quality does not reach the level of the Haydn piece, and the music suffers a bit from it. There are moments where the dynamic level reaches the peaks of intensity, a moment where one would normally be at the edge of their seat, entrenched in the musical climax of the phrase, but instead, the sound tweaks and distorts slightly, never allowing the music and the performance to come through the speakers with the full force that one would have experienced if they had been in the room with the pianist, or if she had recorded these three movements in a recording studio, as it sounded like she did with the Haydn. It is not enough to ruin the album, or even the piece itself, but it will be distracting to some listeners who are sensitive about the sound quality of their records.
After delivering powerful performances on the earlier works of Haydn and Beethoven, Kashakashvili steps into the modern repertoire with one short piece by Scriabin, “Vers La Flamme,” and four “Romantic Sketches” by Griffes. These pieces showcase the sensitive, emotional side to the pianist’s playing, whereas the first two pieces were more of a technical nature. These are strong repertoire choices for the program, as they not only bring a spotlight onto the advanced musicianship that Kashakashvili possesses, but they provide enjoyment for those listeners who favor newer pieces for their listening enjoyment. These two works provide a fitting conclusion to the album, one that is strong throughout and, barring a few technical issues with the recording, is a fine example of a world class performer at the top of her game.
Review by Matthew Warnock
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)