She has been playing the piano since she was four years old. A little more than other children, a little stronger, more refined, more developed. She’s more talented than most, that’s for sure. Now 14-year-old pianist Alexandra Dovgan straddles the line between child prodigy and star pianist. She was born into a family of musicians in Moscow and it was evident at the age of five: her talent is extraordinary. She was taken to the Central Music School in Moscow, the most successful factory of musical talents imaginable. Most of the applicants were rejected, and five-year-old Alexandra Dovgan was accepted. She is now at the beginning of her international career, as she witnesses the current concert at the Prinzregententheater in Munich.
After only a few tapes, it became clear: the line between a child prodigy and an artist is a little wider than expected. She is both. This is precisely what explains the artistic charm of this musician, who, firmly but by no means lightly entering the stage, bows briefly and immediately begins playing Ludwig van Beethoven’s Storm Sonata. It is claimed not because it is more turbulent than other Beethoven sonnets, but because Beethoven’s secretary Anton Schindler rumored that the composer was considering Shakespeare’s magical spirit drama “The Tempest”.
Dovgan thinks in melodies and chords, feels the connections and dramatic climax, her fingers always thinking and speaking to the audience. It’s often very straightforward, and sometimes it floats lyrically in other worlds. When she breaks free and seems to forget the style she’s trained over the years, of course she’s gorgeous. And only when you focus so heavily on shaping every detail and perceiving it as a whole in itself, as in the first third of the second movement, that big flat B Adagio, do they forget a strict essential scale in favor of a wholly petite ornament. But suddenly everything flows in a wide stream, becomes very melodic and exciting – quite Beethoven. And also, it must be said, all Dovgan.
Musical freedom does not lead us into the distance, it leads us directly into the open interior
Because here it opens up completely and shows such sincere music that it is irresistible in the confrontation with the seldom-heard classical romantic genius. There is nothing artificial about playing it, nothing exaggerated or even educational. The musical event appears to have arisen on its own and has not been played. She is enviably naive, but also immature at times. Currently, it is not really known whether this incomplete state does not reflect Beethoven’s romantic side better than the many mature versions or interpretations of his music. However, the tension is missing a bit, the dramatic tension, and the lively tension in slow, extended, and delayed. Maybe that’s something from adulthood after all.
Dovgan, in contrast, brings that overwhelming melodic honesty that is as obvious and feels as real as it can produce from a deeply self-playing, while simultaneously stripping himself of himself. Such is the magic, that the performative artist is with himself and with work. Musical freedom does not lead us into the distance, but leads us directly into the open interior. No longer is Beethoven the savage mob here – which he may not have been, but has become in the past two hundred years – but the grumbling uncle, who at once turns to himself with love and a little sadness, lost in distant visions.
A state of mind specifically written by Robert Schumann, also in his “Faschingsschwank aus Wien”, to which Alexandra Dovgan approaches a little, but immediately reveals her sense of melodic weight. Now the narration has been added, Barlando’s gestures, that will define the second part of the evening, in which you will perform all four stories of Frédéric Chopin. What sometimes appears behind the milky muslin in Chopin’s work has a vivid and powerful influence on Robert Schumann’s seemingly transcendent language of color. Alexandra Dovgan avoids this danger by working with extreme precision. Her style is amazing, which always pleases pianists.
In this way, she developed Chopin’s Ballad in G min in a very personal way, even more so than Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata.
Not because you enjoy circus acrobatics, but because you can focus entirely on the music without having to cheer on whether all the tunes planned come out clean. But the surprising thing isn’t her versatility, but the fact that she also has something to say in these Barlando pieces. They do not shine in empty forms, but convey tangible mood, small psychodrama, despair and joy. This way she develops Chopin’s Ballad in G min in a very personal way, even more so than Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata. It’s also special of course, and here too you sometimes miss the dramatic arcs, but it always plays in a way that you feel: it defends it, that’s how it is at the moment, there’s nothing wrong with it. And that’s all there is to it. One wants to hear not only the composer, but also the artist of the moment, the performer, the pianist.
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It’s probably less important than you think they both agree. In a few years, Alexandra Dovgan will probably play these stories completely differently. Likely she will let the latent beginning of the little F song be followed by eccentric tantrums and act a little in a fit of rage, and she will set off the sheer tension, from which emanates the liberation of the sovereign that Chopin so captivatingly composed in his songs. For now, however, Dovgan’s account of musical truth and grandeur is a different story, and no less interesting. And you may only hear it from a fourteen-year-old girl who temporarily set off with her parents and little brother from Russia to Spain to conquer the world from there.
Nevertheless, she wants to return to Moscow to her great teacher Mira Marchenko, and perhaps, hopefully, be spared the cultural and political consequences of the Ukraine war. Because she actively stands for a different world that does not depend on violence, but on a consciousness that can be shaped and expanded in such piano playing. The pianist’s special ability to perfectly combine pure playing style with musical poetry contributes to this.
This is evident even in the composition of the evening apparitions: Rachmaninoff’s G Sharp Prelude Op.32, 12; Alexander Siloti arrangement of Bach’s small flat-top aircraft Bach presented BWV 855a; Rachmaninoff’s Introduction to D major ref 23.4. The fun here goes hand in hand with the game of thoughts and feelings, which is as hilarious as it is seriously dangerous. And when you look at the face of the young pianist, you see exactly the following: cheerfulness, seriousness and bold confidence.