Concert reviews

NZZ, 30.11.2015, Thomas Schacher

Lucerne Festival am Piano

In the series of debut concerts, there was a discovery to celebrate, in the form of a solo recital by Olga Scheps in Lucerne's Lukas Church. Not that the 29-year-old Russian, who has lived in Germany since childhood and studied there, is a blank slate: she has already recorded six CDs and performed with various European orchestras. Those who heard her for the first time were captivated by the artistic achievement and open character of the artist. In her programme, which featured compositions by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Frédéric Chopin, Scheps played as if she did not let the history of interpreting burden her, but, instead, appeared to be aiming for a seemingly entirely spontaneous personal interpretation. In Rachmaninov's "Variations on a Theme of Corelli" this was demonstrated in the way that the from variation to variation extended harmonies were given special attention by Scheps, repeatedly conjuring up new colours. Scheps was entirely in her element with Chopin: In the G minor ballad op. 23 she found a natural narrative, and, during the 3rd Piano Sonata in B minor, Op 58, the strictness of the formal design found itself wonderfully balanced with the freedom taken in dealing with the cantabile details.

www.nzz.ch/feuilleton/newcomer-eigenwillige-altmeister-1.18655252

Echo-online.de, January 2015, Klaus Trapp

"Between Poetry and Drama - pianist Olga Scheps thrills at the State Theatre"

The young pianist Olga Scheps enchanted the audience at the State Theatre with an inspiring piano recital. Sophisticated works by Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev were on the programme.

It is not only the enormous dexterity that is the amazing aspect of Olga Scheps’s piano playing, but also her ability to delve into the diversity of the expression of music. She has many nuances of touch and an impressive dynamic range. It is hard to believe what reserves of strength she has in her slim body; with apparent ease and elegant movements she handles even the greatest climaxes.

It is such a pleasure to hear and watch this young pianist, born in 1986 in Moscow, and who now lives in Germany. Starting from improvisation, she goes into, Frédéric Chopin's first ballad in G minor, Op. 23, oscillating between poetry and drama, building to a rounded completeness. At the end of the evening, as the second encore, she played the piece again, possibly somewhat more liberated that at the beginning of the concert and perhaps because the Darmstadt concert was being filmed for a DVD.

The Sonata no. 3 in B minor, Op. 58 by Chopin is actually a ballad in disguise. Olga Scheps crafts the sweeping movement, which she plays with repetition of the exposition, with many loving pianistic details and, yet, as if it is all cast from the same mould. It is interesting how she makes Chopin’s hidden polyphony audible, even in the trio of the scherzo, the bulk of which she offers as a brilliant virtuoso piece. The largo sounds very sensitive in her hands, like a long, spun out nocturne. And the final rondo, whose theme receives an ever trickier accompaniment, is simply intoxicating.

Olga Scheps's representation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme of Corelli, namely the old traditional "Follia", takes the character of a large-scale fantasy with memory fragments and flashes of the theme appearing again and again. The pianist dazzles, not only with the virtuoso variations, but also in the way she devotes herself, with intensity, to the delicate sections and all the way to the wonderfully echoing finish.She does not rely on pure show effect.The Seventh Sonata, Op. 83 by Sergei Prokofiev, from the year 1942, is one of OlgaScheps's stellar pieces and it is to her credit that she does not use the barbarisms of this work as pure show effect, but rather reclaims their differentiated aspects. In the middle movement, she emphasises the romanticised features, such as with the third theme. And the dreaded toccata of the finale in seven-eight time is not only wildly hammered, but builds cleverly throughout its entire course.In addition to the elastic-fingered Chopin ballad, after cheers and applause, Scheps celebrates with a ballet melody from Gluck's "Orpheus" and the "White Nights in May" from Tchaikovsky's "Seasons".

Reutlinger Generalanzeiger, January 2015, Armin Knauer

New Year's Concert - The Württemberg Philharmonic with the fabulous pianist Olga Scheps in the City Hall

"The Elf with Power"

US-Russian relations are at rock bottom. But only in politics. In the concert hall, the interplay between East and West still runs like clockwork, as Monday evening's visitors to the New Year's Concert of the Württemberg Philharmonic (WPR) experienced in the sold-out City Hall.

Perhaps Obama should make his Russian colleagues an offer at the negotiating table as sparkling as the Philharmonic did with Bernstein's "Candide" overture: What delightful rhythmic finesse was conjured up by the Japanese conductor Norichika Iimori and the musicians in the room! And is it just me or has the ex-leader of the WPR become much more relaxed, in addition to his famous high precision?

Conversely, in place of their gruff Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, perhaps the Russians should send their graceful, elfin-like pianist Olga Scheps as a negotiator. No boasting, no diva's pride - the willowy 28 year old placed herself at the grand piano with utmost modesty.

Bringing sensitivity to the piece

Once there, she developed a sensitivity for the piece, through which one discovered Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto in an entirely new way. With her, the famous chord series at the beginning was not a theatre-like backdrop of thunder, but, instead, infused with the feelings of a proud, but inwardly vulnerable composer. Her playing features incredibly sharp contours. With her, even the fastest octave fireworks are crystal clear. And it is absolutely amazing with which athleticism this delicate little person can concentrate the energy from shoulders and forearms onto the keyboard. But she never uses all of this technical finesse simply to dazzle. In fact, she seems to look into the composer's soul.

And what she discovered there simply delighted. Roguish humour flashes from the keys in the filigree tripping dance passages of the first set; one experiences symphonic highlights as upswings of passion. In the lyrical passages the piano seems to hum while it gets lost in thought - and sometimes to mourn.

Then there is the brooding, introverted self-retraction of the composer, the abandonment of thought, the losing of oneself, the oscillation between growling defiance and anguished self-questioning. The pianist also formulated this in an incredibly concise and convincing way. Rarely has a Tchaikovsky concert felt as modern as this one.

She earns noisy and sometimes standing ovations and is only allowed to leave after two encores. The first, a very quiet and gentle working from Gluck's "Orfeo", by Giovanni Sgambati, that penetrated the ear like a wistful memory. What fineness in the attack! The second, the finale of Prokofiev's Seventh Piano Sonata, sets the keyboard alight with a mix of jazzy and Eastern European dance rhythms. What a temperament! And then she is almost embarrassed when the applause simply will not end.

Badische Neusten Nachrichten,January 2015, Elisa Reznicek

Masterful with Mozart:

"Young Star pianist Olga Scheps impresses in Karlsruhe"

She says that when she plays the piano, she forgets time - that happens to the listener, too! When, in Karlsruhe,Olga Scheps interpreted Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor, this sweet eternity seemed to pass in the blink of the eye. How much one would like to keep listening to the star pianist and dive as deeply into the music as the 28 year old does, as she shows all of her strengths in this highly contrasting masterpiece. There is a wonderfully light touch, which Scheps (a renowned Chopin specialist) masters every bit as much as the great drama in the form of fast, very vividly played runs and fiery, hard-hitting chords.

The dazzling colours and large presence is brilliantly mirrored by the German State Philharmonic Orchestra of Rhineland-Palatinate, showing itself that evening, at the Karlsruhe Concert Hall, under the baton of conductor Andreas Henning, in magnificent form. Sheps thanked the bravo calls and endless applause with two encores. "Melody" from "Orfeo ed Euridice" (Gluck/Sgambati) and the thrilling finale of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata delivered another exclamation mark. The further programme includes Engelbert Humperdinck's Overture from "Hansel and Gretel", which opens up the series of concerts with the big story of a late-romantic fairy tale opera, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13. The work titled "Winter Dreams" leaves a lot of room for the State Philharmonic, which responds to the physicality of the conductor (every audible feeling appears visibly in Andreas Henning) with a great richness of facets, a warm, homogeneous and very punchy sound - fortunately without any pathos at all.

Berliner Tagesspiegel, December 2014, Frederik Hanssen

...Consolation for the Berlin Sokhiev fans comes in the form of a young pianist, born in 1986, Olga Scheps. She plays Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in a way that one could hardly imagine it better: voluptuous, without ever drifting towards the sweet; powerful, but without having to thunder. And Tugan Sokhiev stands by her, like a gentleman of the old school, a companion who may be determining the course, but who never fails to give the lady opposite his complete attention.

The solo part that is usually quite prone to talkativeness is played by Olga Scheps clearly and precisely, every note. Every delightfully decorative ornament is played so finely, apparently effortlessly, that a view into the vast expanses of the Russian countryside, as the Russian soul seems to open up: Emotions in Cinemascope, a rush of sound with bittersweet undertones.

Frankfurter Neue Presse, 11.03.2014, Sabine Schlichte

"The young artist is no longer a secret any more as the sold-out Cityhall showed - and that quite rightly"... "A phenomenal pianist"... "Music from the heart"

General-Anzeiger-Bonn, 23th of January 2014, Christoph Zimmermann

"Olga Scheps interpreted Chopin's Opus 11 with uncommonly clear intonation and great lucidity that might be inclined to characterize as a feminine one. The attractive, slim artist showed that she is up to any required hunder of the oevre (parallel octaves, seqience of trills, etc.). Her particular strength manifested itself though in the lyricism of the middle movement romance. The association of Bellini's bel canto came up truly."

Braunschweiger Zeitung, 22th of January 2014, Florian Arnold

"The technical hurdles she masters seemingly effortlessly. She plays with a little use of the pedals, clear and pure at the touch. Which is somehow reminiscent of Alfred Brendel, who is one of Scheps' patrons. ... Scheps' design of the second movement of the E minor Concerto in Braunschweig is a poem: a delicate fabric composed of melancholic impressions, sometimes to atomize into an ultra fine fog of sound. Adorable. In the finale she adopts a boisterous sound, but rarely goes a step further than the Mezzo Forte. Scheps relies on the suggestive power of their gentle expressivity..."

Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, 2nd of August 2013

„Olga Scheps' brilliant play reconciles the harshest critics: the way she combines the compositional sharpness, the technical sophistication and the emotionality concerning the technical as well as the interpreting skills, shows highest pianistic art!“

Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, 2nd of August 2013

„Despite her young age of only 27 years, the German-Russian pianist has been a shining star in the classical sky for quite some time, which has prepared her to become a clearly-defined fixed star."

Bernd Aulich, Recklinghäuser Zeitung, 7th of July 2013

"It is musical ability that counts in order for a pianist to come that far. This is where the ability of the 27-year-old, who was born in Moscow and raised in Germany, is hardly matched. She reaffirmed her exceptional rank at the Klavierfestival Ruhr, where she made her debut in 2007 at the city hall Mülheim."

Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 17th of July 2013

„On Monday night the pianist played the work of Franz Schubert, P.I. Tshaikovskij, Mili Balakirev, Sergej Prokofjev and Robert Schumann at the city hall at the Klavierfestival Ruhr. It was a concert which ended in standing ovations.“

Spiegel Online, 08.07.2013, David Krenz

"Two hours of perfect play and great interpretations."

Dr. Klaus Peter Richter, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 5th of May 2013

„The strength and soul of the piano poet Olga Scheps at the Hercules hall (...) Amazed cheering for Olga Scheps, who thanked the audience with three encores (...).“

Wiesbadener Kurier, July 2013

„As she played Frederic Chopin's 2nd piano concerto in f-minor with the Brussel Philharmonic, she showed confidence in her solo part and engaged into a rapid and technically solid play, which noticeably carried away the audience (...) At that, Olga Scheps exceeded most expectations, played the slow middle one of the three sets genuinely real, with a lot of clarity and little rubato.“

Hermann Schmidt, Passauer Neue Presse, 11th of November 2013

„She embodies the extraordinary with immense musicality, impeccable technique and a highly sophisticated soundculture that is unmatched by even the most renowned artist oft her craft.“

Hermann Schmidt, Passauer Neue Presse, 11th of November 2013

"Lyrical and dramatic elements are as distinct as her confident dealing with all conceivable and unconceivable possibilities of her instrument: She possesses the ability to make a piano sing. Her play is of steal, as smooth as cotton with endless in betweens."