Click here for most recent reviews about Tania's Album Rhythmic Movement, released Jan. 7th, 2017
The Huffington Post
by Roxane Assaf-Lynn
Classical Crossover: From Nerdy to Naughty Tania Stavreva’s Got Rhythm
"History shows that musical prodigies from gifted families respond to the pressures in different ways, some make it; some don’t. The famous ones leave lasting legacies – Beethoven who would be roused from sleep as a child to play for his drunken father; Mozart who played his first performance tour with rheumatic fever while his peers were finishing first grade. By age 21, it’s reasonable to expect some brooding introversion or at least the occasional crisis of confidence.
But then comes Bulgarian-bred Tania Stavreva with a background in classical piano as disciplined and deep as any on the concert stage, yet whose well-centered exuberance and open spirit suggest an internal balance that will take her far. Her debut album “Rhythmic Movement” slated for release January 7, 2017, calls for such metronomic virtuosity, it’s no wonder she’s keeping a steady beat as she hits engagements across the US, through Europe, and back home in New York.
Revealing only that she’s “over 21,” the diminutive knock-out has a published performance archive stretching back to 2006. Playing to sold-out rooms is normal for her whether dishing up classics in gown and pearls or smoking out clubby spaces with jazz improvisation, bare shoulders and spike heels. She talks as though she’s having a blast, even recalling an acting gig somewhere Off-Off-Broadway in 2012.
“Music is my mother language but I love all the other areas of art… I feel that all of them are connected,” said Stavreva of the multimedia theatrical collaboration that spawned her album’s barreling title track.
With guest artist and two-time Grammy Award winning drummer Will Calhoun (Living Color, B.B. King), the 14-track collection has celebrity power both up front and behind the scenes.
Stavreva gushed over the “genius” who engineered, mixed and recorded “Rhythmic Movement.” Renowned German-born record producer Ron Saint Germain has earned more than 60 Gold and Platinum Disc awards including four “Diamond Platinum” (10 million+). His work is associated with 19 Grammy nominations including 14 wins for notable artists (Jimi Hendrix, Muse, U2, Soundgarden, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nels Cline, and McCoy Tyner to name some).
How does a classical pianist end up playing with drums?
In 2011 Stavreva attended the Grammy Awards and met Cuban-American drummer Dave Lombardo, co-founder of the thrash metal band Slayer. “I felt power in the piano where it could sound orchestral, intimate, rhythmic, melodic, lyrical,” she recalled. “But there could be something to underline those rhythms. We didn’t plan it; it happened instantly.”
After turning Lombardo onto a YouTube recording she was excited about, he posted it on social media, and that sparked the idea for an album. Her producer got Calhoun for the recording, and playing piano in ensemble with a drummer became a major part of her musical identity.
An ARTIST with INTEGRITY – and an album to sell
Stavreva calls herself a “classical nerd.” That could be proven out in several ways: her note-perfect performances, her reverence for Bach, her life of practice-first-socialize-later commitment. “If I skipped a practice I felt something was missing like eating or taking a shower,” she admitted. “On weekends I could play with kids, but I wasn’t really a party-type kid.”
But the story behind her original composition that sets the mood of the album reveals why she sees herself as hypervigilant. During a theatrical collaboration on a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” someone floated the proposal of re-writing portions of a classical work to fit the occasion, altering tempi to concord with monologue, ending earlier than written, etc. The vivacious concert pianist respectfully demurred, solving the matter by composing something from scratch. That work became the title piece on her album.
“It was theatre that inspired me to start composing,” Stavreva said. “I feel that classical works are masterworks and shouldn’t be altered from their originals. I feel it makes artistic sense. And I feel that by including Track 7, the audience has the chance to hear the original.”
True to its name, the sound experience of “Rhythmic Movement” is all about that beat. Engaging with work by Bulgaria’s preeminent composer Pancho Vladigerov, known for incorporating folk elements into classical music and writing in complicated meter, Stavreva enters a playground for percussive experimentation.
The asymmetrical rhythms that characterize music that Bulgarians would dance to at weddings in 7/8 or 9/8 time can be the fodder for sophisticated expression in the hands of Vladigerov, Stavreva and the Argentine classical composer Alberto Ginastera (Tracks 4, 5, 6). The intensity builds through the album, leveling off with the jazzier lilt of a pairing by Nikolai Kapustin, to Stavreva the “Russian Gershwin.”
Stavreva then delivers a surprise for the ears by stroking the inside of the piano and plucking the strings in her original “Dark Side of the Sun.” What follows is an award-winning tribute to Alan Lomax, a blues fantasy by Mason Bates, known for his orchestral electronica.
With characteristic enthusiasm, Stavreva explained that with “White Lies for Lomax,” the composer demanded the precision of a classical musician, requiring strict adherence to the music as written, but the trick was to play as though she were improvising. “It had to sound like I was creating it at the moment. That was the challenge,” she said with fresh wonder. “I had a lot of fun with that.”
The album intentionally weaves related elements between and among selections, even to the point of genetics. Track 13 launches a set of nine variations on a popular Bulgarian folk song (“Dilmano, Dilbero”) by Alexander Vladigerov, son of Pancho. For good measure, Stavreva has sung the tune on the previous track for the listener’s edification.
The album concludes with “Ritmico y Distorsionado,” a recounting of Track 7 but with a drum improvisation. “I said as a joke, ‘How about if we distorted the piano?’” she said gleefully. “Track 14 has distortion in particular sections, thus the name of the song.”
EDGY is IN: Tania Talks Wardrobe and Style
Wandering onto the internet, Tania Stavreva is found against a red backdrop in black lace kicking up high leather boots. Then in a live setting, she sits demurely at the piano in backless garb, skin done up in colors, while an artist body-paints a topless model on the stage.
When Stavreva plays a Brahms or Beethoven concerto, she said, “I probably don’t want too much distraction there. I don’t want to focus on anything else.” Choosing a traditional look for a traditional program, she enjoys the gracing the full-length dress, noting that most have to wait for a wedding, a prom, or the Academy Awards to get so formal. “It’s very special,” she mused. “It’s really neat to have a profession that allows me to wear [a gown] more often.”
But other idioms loosen the collar on self expression. “If I’m playing something jazzy, it can incorporate body language and style. It’s more sexy in a way,” she explained. “If I play something more modern or jazzy or rhythmic, especially if it’s a venue that’s more edgy or serves alcohol, it calls for something more sexy. What you’d see on a jazz musician or pop artist.” As long as she can feel the pedals, she said, the heels on her shoes can be as rakish as she can stand.
Seems a silly question for one trained at Bulgaria’s National Academy of Music, but do people take her seriously? Music critics have described her as “exceptional, entrancing, fun!” and “a fully formed and fearsomely talented pianist.” She has been called “a piano dynamo” and more to the point, “a very unique pianist, combining genuine quality with a refreshing approach to programing with superior technical abilities” renowned internationally for “having some of the most precise fingering of any of the twenty-something generation of pianists, bar none.” A reading of her bio and list of engagements is boggling.
Nevertheless, she said, “A person sees a young woman dressed in a more modern way, I feel they make a judgment before they even hear the music, so it’s much harder to convince them of what you can do.” All it took was a single creative collaboration with a body painter, and a cliché was born: “Oh, no body painting today?” Countless traditional performances and prestigious accolades reduced to one memorable visual.
“It was around the time I was also working with one of the most difficult pieces in the world written for piano by Samuel Barber – “Piano Sonata.” As her senior recital enshrined on YouTube will attest, she played it to good effect. “Look!” she wants to say. “I just played three pieces by Barber, but you’re talking about body painting!”
Her ultimate preference is boots with leggings and a short dress. “That’s the real me,” she said. But the look has to match the program.
Hopes for the Future of “Rhythmic Movement”
The idea of making an album came later for Stavreva. After years of avoiding what sounded to her like entering a racket where musicians suffer mistreatment at the hands of record labels, she decided to give her audience what they want.
“People after my concerts would ask me, ‘How can I take this music home?’ It’s something my audience has been asking for. I respect my audience and care about them very much, so I wanted to give this to them.”
She added with assertive sincerity, “Basically this is something to express who I am at this time in my life. I wanted to start from that phase in my life and be honest with my audience about this.”
In the spring of 2017, Stavreva will start working with exclusively Bulgarian composers incorporating more folk themes and devices into the next phase of her work. " - Roxane Assaf-Lynn, The Huffington Post
The Times of Israel
by Michael Micucci-Kosowski
Oct. 27th, 2016
The Marc A. Scorca Recital Hall at The National Opera Center
New York, NY
Classical Pianist Draws Inspiration from Bulgarian-Jewish Composers for New Album to be Released January 7th (published November 21st, 2016), The Times of Israel
"It was at the National Opera Center two weeks ago that I sat down to listen to beautiful renditions of Bulgarian music and classical compositions, as well as original material, by Tania Stavreva. Her audience was transformed not only by her skills at the piano, which truly were spectacular, but also by her immense creativity. Original compositions by Ms. Stavreva were combined with other compositions on the evening’s program. I was expecting homages, perhaps, to some of her favorite compatriot composers. I was expecting soothing piano pieces that were reminiscent of her classical predecessors. I never expected her to stand up, walk to the side of the piano, plucking and strumming the piano strings with her bare fingers. I also could not believe that she did that while one hand remained on the traditional piano keys.
Entitled “The Dark Side of the Sun”, the piece begins with Tania’s hand strumming over the open strings of a Grand Piano. Suddenly, a very low knocking sound comes from the left side of the keyboard, sounding like a pendulum or some kind of pounding at a door. The piece has a very eerie quality that evoked feelings of change and unsureness. The strumming begins again, and yet Tania’s hand is ever ready to come back with the low pendulum note. The piece sounds like a harp that has all the qualities of a cacophony, but all the aesthetics of a moving and beautiful symphony. Feelings of uncertainty and change are made pleasant and delivered in a very moving way.
Many of the composers on her newest album, “Rhythmic Movement”, which is set to release on January 7th 2017, are Jewish, including Alexander and Pancho Vladigerov (for whom the National Academy of Music in Sofia is named). In 2017, Tania will be working on a program that features international Jewish composers, including those from Israel, Bulgaria, and America. Tania said: “I am proud to celebrate the diversity of my home country, Bulgaria, and I am excited to work and play with the talented Israeli composers and musicians that I will be joined with during my upcoming visit to Israel.”
Tania also offered her take on a classic Bulgarian Folk Song called Dimano Dilbero. Although the original folk song is sung, and tends to be already very upbeat and oscillatory, Tania’s piano version tends to exaggerate those qualities. Ms. Stavreva explains: “to me, music is fluid and fun. I like to combine my traditional classical piano training with more modern music, while bringing worldwide influences to my music, as well as a diversity of cultures and themes.” Tania’s music delivers a cross between Bulgarian folk music and the training of a creative classical pianist. Ms. Stavreva’s compositions are influenced by her personal experiences, her top-flight classical training, and various classical composers. She has a love and dedication to experimenting with new music and combining genres that other classical musicians would never attempt or even think of combining.
All these are found on Tania’s newest album, “Rhythmic Movement” which will be available soon on SoundCloud and on disc. You can watch Tania performing live in the coming months, once her new album is released in early January 2017. In the mean time, check out Ms. Stavreva on Youtube, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bluZzKMlmo. “Dark Side of the Sun” begins at 34:00 into the Youtube clip. Tania is due to perform in Israel during Winter 2017. The dates, as well as further information about Tania Stavreva, and her upcoming album, “Rythmic Movement” will be listed on her website, http://www.TaniaStavreva.com " - Michael Micucci-Kosowski, The Times of Israel
Review by Jon Sobel
Concert Review: Pianist Tania Stavreva – ‘Kaleidoscope Rhythms!’ – Music of Chopin, Mompou, Vladigerov and More (NYC 11/15/15) –
Jon Sobel, (BlogCritics.org)
Bulgarian-born pianist Tania Stavreva is one of a new breed of self-sufficient young classical musicians. Following the lead of their pop music counterparts, they are taking their careers into their own hands – in Stavreva’s case, hands of great skill and power, attached to a deceptively diminutive form. Her recent program at Tenri Cultural Institute of New York included two short self-penned works of rumbling, percussive intensity betraying a spirit not hobbled by any need for over-delicacy.
In line with her interest in championing composers from her native land, Stavreva fearlessly segued her own “Rhythmic Movement” into a piece of the same name by noted Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov. His “Rhythmic Movement” moves in the characteristic 2-2-2-3 rhythm of some Eastern European music, which I’m seeing more and more often in concert and “crossover” music in various genres. Stavreva’ dark energy was impressive in Alberto Ginastera’s “Ruvideo et ostinato, Op. 22,” another percussive work that she played with Horowitz-esque animation, nearly throwing herself off the piano bench at the end. Gil Shohat’s miniature “The Scream,” though uninspiring in itself, led into another original piece in which Stavreva improvised on the piano’s inner guts with electric flair and colorful musicality. Wisely, she inserted into the center of the program a few works in a more romantic style, starting with Chopin’s relatively rarely performed Etude No. 1 in F minor, whose snakelike melody and four-against-three rhythm she carried off nicely. Two short pieces by Federico Mompou were sensitively played with a Chopin-esque romanticism.
Two highlights came at the end. Bulgarian composer Veselin Stoyanov massaged that above-mentioned 2-2-2-3 rhythm into lyrical spiderwebs of sound in his “Prelude” from “Three Pieces for Piano in 9/8.” And in the closing showpiece, Vladigerov’s delightfully creative “Variations on Bulgarian Folk Song ‘Dilmano, Dilbero,’ Op. 2,” Stavreva displayed her wide interpretive range and smart, flashy technique on variations that suggested a broad spectrum of styles: Rachmaninoff, Chopin, jazz. (Even a hint Liberace!) After a series of short pieces, the Variations also gave the pianist a chance to show she can deploy sustained creative energy through a more extended work.
I suspect it’s symbiotic: as more young performers set out to make their own way, more venues will become available for stylish new presentations of new music. Tania Stavreva will have a new album coming out in 2016. In the meantime, you can find her concert schedule on her website.” – Jon Sobel
Review by Huntley Dent
March 7th, 2017
STAVREVA: Rhythmic Movement. The Dark Side of the Sun. P. VLADIGEROV "Ratchenitza." Mouvement Rythmique. GINASTERA Danzas Argentinas: Danza del Viejo Boyero; Danza de la Moza Donosa; Danza del Gaucho Matrero. Ruvido ed Ostinato. Ritmico y Distorsionado. KAPUSTIN Jazz Concert Etudes: Prelude; Toccatina. BATES White Lies for Lomax. TRAD. Dilmano, Dilbero. A. VLADIGEROV "Dilmano, Dilbero," Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Song
In a review from her native Bulgaria, the fearless young pianist Tania Stavreva is called “mind blowing,” but even more apt is the reviewer’s praise for Stavreva’s “breakthrough into world show business.” A better phrase would be hard to find for this ultra-hip debut album. Crossing three continents, the selections evoke musical globalism at its most exciting. The title of Rhythmic Movement conveys the kinetic spirit of Stavreva’s playing throughout, although the specific reference is to a section from a 1942 piano suite by the prominent Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov (1899–1978). For me, and I imagine many readers, the two familiar names on the program are Alberto Ginastera, who brought Argentina’s dance rhythms to the world, and Nikolai Kapustin, the Russian alchemist who fuses Rachmaninoff and jazz into taxing, thrilling display pieces for virtuoso pianists.
Even without knowing the composers, what’s more important is the thrust of these 14 short works—the only long one is an 11-minute set of variations on a Bulgarian folk tune by Vladigerov’s son Alexander. We’re swept up on a whirlwind rhythmic tour, a perpetuum mobile that can be experienced almost as a single composition where Ginastera’s “arrogant cowboy” (gaucho matrero) steps in and out, making way for Kapustin’s smoky jazz-club riffs and an exotically skewed Bulgarian dance in 9/8 time (2+2+2+3). Stavreva, who is based in New York City, includes some incidents that vary the journey with touches of sultry, tango-ish allure (Ginastera’s haunting “Dance of the Beautiful Maiden”) along with the mysterious sounds of Stavreva’s own composition The Dark Side of the Sun. Here she plays inside the piano case, strumming, plucking, and gliding across the strings to mesmerizing effect, all the more because you don’t expect such a drastic plunge into a contemporary sound world.
The unexpected spices up the proceedings in other ways, quite movingly in Mason Bates’s White Lies for Lomax,, written in 2009 on a commission from the Tanglewood Music Center. On the classical side we all know about the field studies by Kodály and Bartók that rescued centuries of traditional folk music in Hungary, Romania, and beyond. The intrepid song hunter Alan Lomax is just as famous on the jazz-blues side of American folk traditions. Bates’s 6-minute piano piece, described by him as a “blues fantasy” tribute to Lomax, features a brilliant touch at the end, when we faintly hear in the background the original recording of Old Dollar Mamie, a black prison song collected by Lomax. The ghostly effect sends shivers down the spine.
Stavreva is also again represented as composer by Rhythmic Movement (borrowing Vladigerov’s title), an appropriately stomping theme for Caliban written for an off-off Broadway production of The Tempest. She sings the popular Bulgarian folk song Dilmano, Dilbero before launching into Alexander Vladigerov’s very effective theme and variations on the tune, which takes a fairly plain, unassuming melody and finds the potential for exciting keyboard display rather like untamed Gershwin with a touch of Rachmaninoff in its soul, if either of those composers could have comprehended the Kapustin-like perpetual syncopation hurtling through the music at top speed. The final surprise is a repeat performance of Ginastera’s Ruvido ed Ostinato, a movement taken from his Piano Sonata No. 1, op. 22, which on the replay gets a drum improvisation by Will Calhoun.
Condensing so much variety into a short program is proof enough that Stravreva indeed has stepped into world show business and done it with a fierce, free imagination. Her technique is well up to the considerable challenges of Kapustin and Ginastera as she effortlessly sweeps from one rhythmic mode to the next. Slimline cardboard packaging with brief but useful descriptions of each piece. In all, I enjoyed feeling hip for most of an hour (or was it infra dig?) and warmly welcome one of the most unique piano recitals of the year. - Huntley Dent
Review by Harry Rolnick
"Music of the Century"
April, 16th, 2010, Roulette, New York, NY
"New Yorkers looking for mainstream music last night would have been frustrated. Up in Symphony Space, players of the New York Philharmonic were playing new works by Sam Shepherd and Matthias Pinscher. Down in Carnegie Hall, Louis Andriessen and Bang On A Can weregoing to present more contemporary music. Unfortunately, the composer of the Divine Comedy opera suffered a Divinely-Generated Tragedy. Iceland’s volcanic ash prevented his associates were flying back, and the concert was canceled.
Even further downtown, pianist Tania Stavreva was giving an exceptional concert of 20th and 21st Century music with names mostly unknown. I hadn’t heard Ms. Stavreva before, but her outstanding reputation preceded her. ..her numerous performances in America and Europe have received excellent reviews. Most attractively, this pianist has never played music to win audience popularity. Crowds do not stand on long lines to hear Ginastera, Scriabin and her countryman Alexander Vladigerov, but she has no hesitation in programing rare music–and let the devil take the hindmost.
Down at the Roulette, a hall near Canal Street better known for rock and jazz, Ms. Stavreva sat down at a less-than-pristine Steinway, and let her finger fly over music for the younger audience, mainly of composers and pianists themselves. And while Ms. Stavreva did have names like Debussy and Barber, the major portion of the hour-long recital was devoted to other favorites. Neither the piano (whose soft tones were not quite audible) nor the hall (with curtains masking diverse pianistic colors) were especially conducive to great playing. But her fingers overcame those difficulties in the most difficult works. ... Debussy's “Heather” and the ultra-familiar “Girl with the Flaxen Hair” showed nicely practiced fluidity.
The other relatively familiar work, Ginastera’s First Sonata was, for this listener, the highlight of the recital. It takes a real technician to essay the Presto, and to bring out those mysterious folkish melodies in the beginning. But the slow movement of this Sonata starting like that Scarlatti “Cat’s fugue” but developing into the most delicate tapestry, was played with a personal sensitivity difficult to find elsewhere.
The first work was dedicated to the great Alan Lomax, the American equivalent of Béla Bartók in rooting out our folk music. But Mason Bates’ White Lies for Lomax, was reaching for jazz more than blues, the James Johnson ‘stretch’ piano, a bit cleaned up. The sounds at the end of Lomax actually coaxing some Mississippi blues was the real thing. Australian Carl Vine contributed two pieces. The first, Rash used more electronic sound, sometimes imitating the pianist, sometimes playing different music entirely. This was fun, entrancing, very clever.
The second work, his First Sonata had textures made for Ms. Stavreva. Her hand stretch is frankly not those of a Rachmaninov, but the rhythm and drive she gives to all her pieces can’t be denied. This work was not only rhythmically driving, but the sounds and textures piled on one another, the octave runs were extremely difficult, and it seemed to have two different rhythms for left and right hands. Like the other pieces, Ms. Stavreva worked the piano hard, played with intensity and obvious pleasure." - Harry Rolnick
Review by Steve Holtje
I Have Seen the Future of Classical Music, and It Includes Drinks
July 30, 2011 - 07:00 — Steve Holtje
Rhythmic Movement: A Modern View of the Classical Music Recital in the 21st Century
The Metropolitan Room, July 27, 2011
Whither the classical recital in our multi-media/attention deficit disorder age? Will kids nowadays sit in a dark room (worship at a temple of music, as they say) to concentrate only on a lone figure onstage playing non-rock music? Well, it helps to have a drink in hand, as the success of Le Poisson Rouge has shown over the past few years; classical music in a bar with table service is apparently worth the trade-off of the sounds of the music mixing with clinking glasses, the whine of credit card receipts printing, etc. But what else can be added? Well, visuals -- and not just the sight of good-looking people playing the instruments. Kronos Quartet has done this quite successfully with film and even a projection of the printed music score (showing that Penderecki's non-traditional sounds are scrupulously notated was a brilliant idea). As the subtitle of her recital program at the Metropolitan Room (which normally hosts tony cabaret performances) suggests, young pianist Tania Stavreva has some further ideas for enlivening recital presentation.
Lest you immediately think that she's distracting from a talent lacuna, rest assured that such is not the case. When after her 2009 NYC recital debut the city's senior maven of classical music criticism, Harris Goldsmith, likened her Scriabin playing to Horowitz's, it was clear that the child prodigy from Bulgaria had grown into a fully formed and fearsomely talented pianist who need not overcompensate for anything.
Her programming is staunchly modern: the oldest composer played this evening was Eric Satie (1866-1925), half the composers on the program are alive, and there were two world premieres, three if one counts her arrangement of Cage's 4'33" -- which brings us to one of her tweaks of recital decorum. Besides shortening the piece to 3'33", she also added a miked clock (which she says "represents time and...is also a symbol of constant rhythm and pulse that are eternal") and dancers, who for most of their time on stage posed without moving, which seems appropriate in music with no notes. Two pieces utilized electronics. And Stavreva’s bare back was adorned with body paint by Danny Setiawan (a painting of a dancer, reflecting the Rhythmic Movement title of the program), and for most of the program, live video (by Dwight Schneider) of her back was projected on a wall screen; as she played, the dancer moved (well, slightly).
Satie's 3 Gnossiennes opened the program, and at first the video was not live, but rather a close-up of the application of the paint. The rather frenzied movements of the painter clashed with Satie's solemn rhythms, but the musical performance was impeccable. Not for Stavreva the dry tone and flat affect of some Satie players; she deployed rich timbres, excellent legato, and expressive rubato phrasing while honoring the mercurial moods of Satie's directions, moving from one piece to the next with barely a pause.
Next came Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), his Danzas Argentinas, a triptych of character pieces. She used a nice light touch for the first two, keeping the dissonances from becoming too clangorous with her refined pedal technique. Then, for "Dance of the Arrogant Cowboy," she gradually unleashed the power as the piece ebbed and flowed, building to its bravura finish.
Nikolai Kapustin (1937- ) began a stretch of living composers; two selections (Nos. 1 and 3) from his Jazz Concert Etudes were both jazzy and bluesy in a sort of 1920s Futurist mechanical way, alternating lush harmonies with more spare and rhythmically energetic passages. …but the next two pieces were unfamiliar to us non-Bulgarians. Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Song "Dilmano, Dilbero" (1954) by Alexander Vladigerov (1933-1993), Pancho's son. This was quite a musical discovery for me, a magnificent piece. He takes full advantage of the variety inherent in variation form with a wide range of moods and styles, mixing Rachmaninovian Romantic virtuosity full of filigree with soulful Bulgarian songfulness and misterioso tints, with a big climax for the rousing close. …So the evening was quite successful musically speaking….If this is the direction the classical recital is moving in, and if it makes the music seem more inviting to younger audiences, then I'm in favor of it. - Steve Holtje
New York Concert Review
Review by Harris Goldsmith
Tania Stavreva New York Recital Debut@Carnegie Hall
Harris Goldsmith - New York Concert Review
Tania Stavreva, Piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
April 4, 2009
“Tania Stavreva made a deep impression with her Weill Hall debut as a recipient of Artists International's Special Presentation Series. Ms. Stavreva is a graduate of the Dubrin Petkov Music School in her native Bulgaria, where she studied with Rositsa Ivancheva for fourteen years.
Her demanding and diversified program began with a bold, dynamic performance of Alberto Ginastera's 1952 First Sonata, Op.22. Her reading of the Allegro marcato first movement immediately showed architecture, rhythmic swagger and the huge dynamic range whose brilliance never once became harsh or percussive. The Presto misterioso, with its scary unison between top and bottom of the keyboard, went with unlimited virtuosity and seeming effortlessness. Ms. Stavreva evoked a crouching inwardness in the Adagio molto appasionato slow movement and finished with a supercharged, almost overpowering version on the Ravido ed ostinato finale. I had almost forgotten just how fine a work this Ginastera Sonata was (it used to be heard frequently in concerts, but these days most pianists opt for the late composer's lesser Argentinian Dances). Ms. Stavreva deserves gratitude for her magnificent revival.
Also, noteworthy was a US Premiere of Gil Shohat's "Sparks from the Beyond" (1996-1997) The short pieces of Shohat's composition are entitled "Sparks from Infinity"; "Sparks of Existence"; "Sparks of Motion"; "Sparks of Material"; "Sparks of Faith"; "Sparks of Beauty" and "Sparks of Love." Ms. Stavreva's con amore performance evoked all the requisite rapt intensity, love, motion and beauty.
Scriabin's "Vers la flame", Op.72 continued along the lines of Ms. Stavreva's thematic programming. Her magnificent interpretation commenced with a delicacy that made the flesh creep, and then it ignited and built to an immense power which reminded me of those unforgettable Horowitz recordings and concert performances from the 1960s and 1970s.
The Sonata No.1 by the Australian composer Carl Vine first came to my attention when I was a judge at the 1995 Cleveland International Piano Competition. Interestingly, the unisons in the Sonata's second movement have much in common with the aforementioned second movement of the Ginastera Sonata. Ms. Stavreva obviously finds this particular genre of pianism made to order for her superior technical abilities; she played the Vine and the Ginastera outstandingly well.
Two Debussy Preludes, "Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir" from Book I and "Bruyeres" from Book II, were elegantly recreated with pulse and atmosphere, and the concert ended with the Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Song "Dilmano Dilbero" Op. 2 by the late Alexander Vladigerov (1933-1993).” - Harris Goldsmith
Review by Nick Stubblefield
Bulgarian Pianist Tania Stavreva Brings "Kaleidoscope Rhythms" to Tenri Cultural Institute, by Nick Stubblefield, November 2015, New York, NY
“Great music and art from all corners of the globe can be found in New York all year round -- so much so that deciding which event to attend next can be overwhelming. Bulgarian-born pianist Tania Stavreva solved that dilemma for me on Saturday when she invited me to a program she dubbed "Kaleidoscope Rhythms" at the Tenri Cultural Institute.
Located in Greenwich Village, the Tenri Cultural Institute serves the surrounding community by, among other functions, providing performance space for local musicians. The clean, white minimalist room is visually and acoustically appealing, with the relative proximity to the Steinway grand enhancing the clarity of sound.
Stavreva jump-started a program of mostly Bulgarian compositions, opening with her own, "Rhythmic Movement." Her piece referenced motifs and ideas from the second number, also titled "Rhythmic Movement" by Pancho Vladigerov. Both works drove forward with a calculated energy: dense harmonies overlapped in rapid succession, relentless from beginning to end. It was also brief, lasting only a couple of minutes. In fact, the entire program was a refreshingly succinct Bulgarian sampler platter, clocking in at just over one hour.
Gil Shohat's "The Scream," inspired by the Munch painting of the same name, was paired with a short composition of her own, "The Dark Side of the Sun": an improvisation using an extended technique in which the strings inside the piano are plucked, sounding like an autoharp. These juxtapositions created a nice continuity, and allowed certain shorter works a little more breathing room. Each of the Bulgarian works was distinct from one another, yet there were certainly common threads linking the material. Several works, for example, featured asymmetrical rhythms, in which sets of two notes are played against sets of three notes. There were also similarities within the melodic material -- much of it drawn from Bulgarian folk-songs. I found the mood of many of the works mysterious, but strangely comforting. (The program also included the United States Premiere of Nimrod Borenstein's "Ostinato Etude" Op. 66.) The evening ended with an encore performance of Stavreva's opener. She played with a comforting self-assurance and great attention to melodic and harmonic balance. Her musicality, attention to detail, and a poised overall presentation made for an entertaining and satisfying experience.”
Sound Word Sight Arts Magazine
Review by Mark Greenfest
Tania Stavreva in Concert - A Review by Mark Greenfest
“Tania Stavreva gave a piano solo concert at Tenri Cultural Institute in New York, June 23, 2015, before she launches her British tour. Her London recital is July 25. Ms. Stavreva’s performance is exciting and exacting. She understands the music she performs. Trim as any aerobics instructor in her black cocktail dress and tiara-like headband, this petite dynamo has some of the most precise fingering of any of the twenty-something generation of pianists, bar none. And, she has a pedaling technique in her stiletto heels that’s immaculate. Her showmanship has total substance and this Bulgarian-born, and Bulgarian and American-educated pianist, with distinguished Russian-trained professors, is one to watch. (She had studied with Daniel Pollack, who was a disciple of Rosina Lhevine, at Juilliard, and with Krassimir Gatev and Rosita Ivanchera in Bulgaria.)
In her own, short and virtuosic piece Rhythmic Movement, rhythms cascade on top of rhythms, in wildly forward-moving arpeggios that are carefully controlled – hands moving fast as lightning. I was impressed by the music of Pancho Vladigerov, a Bulgarian composer whose music is lyrical and ruminative – for instance, the first piece Page from An Album is nocturnal – very much in the pianistic tradition of Liszt and Chopin – romantic, subtle and exciting; in contrast, the third piece has rocketing arpeggios. Her French, Spanish, Argentinian and Russian repertoire sounds authentic, steeped in that culture and technique. In several pieces her hands rocket like a jet engine, yet she’s steady as a rock. She performed the New York premiere of Mason Bates (U.S., b. 1977), Indigo Workshop (2014) and is supportive of new music. She also gave a superb performance of Roberto Piana’s (b. 1971) Preludes. (She has gotten good press in the past, including from The New York Times and from the late Harris Goldsmith.)”
Review by James Moriarty, Royal Academy of Music, 26 July 2015
Tania Stavreva at the 1901 Arts Club: A unique pianist in an unique venue!
Everybody should visit the 1901 Arts Club at least once, even if just for the novelty. Bulgarian-born pianist Tania Stavreva is exactly the sort of performer these venues need: combining genuine quality with a refreshing approach to programming. …Rhythmic Movement in 7/8 was only a short piece – initially composed as incidental music to accompany the entrances of Caliban in a theatrical performance of The Tempest – but it showcased Stavreva’s firmness of articulation and energetic playing excellently. More Bulgarian music followed, including a fine performance of Veselin Stoyanov’s Prelude in 9/8. The prelude’s musical language was somewhere between Debussy and Satie, with a romantic tinge to the harmony at climactic points, and Stavreva’s performance displayed great sensitivity towards the sweeping harmonic gestures whilst maintaining the rhythmic fluency demanded by the piece’s sparser moments. By the time she reached a pair of Nikolai Kapustin Jazz Concert Etudes, some of the finer examples of classical-Jazz fusion you’re likely to hear, the musical affinities between the pieces on this seemingly disparate programme were beginning to become clear. Stavreva clearly has a penchant for rhythmically adventurous music, even if her interpretation here was a bit strait-laced for “jazz”, as well as music that blends modality with harmonic luxuriousness. As such the programme up to this point and beyond served as an effective introduction to 20th century compositional voices that stand outside of the modernist framework through which music of the last century is so often understood. American composer Steve Holtje’s Four Gymnopedies, Tribute to Satie, receiving its UK première, were a further example of this softly-iconoclastic aesthetic, one that has been especially prevalent in American music of the last 60 years. Consisting of four brief movements, each of which magnify and develop material from Satie’s original Gymnopédies, the enriched harmonic language of Holtje’s pieces suited Stavreva’s playing…Other than her two encores, a pair of intimate works by Roberto Piana and a reprise of Rhythmic Movement in 7/8, the final work on the programme was Alexander Vladigerov’s Variations on a Bulgarian Folk Song. After such a buffet-style programme, it was good to have a slightly longer piece to finish proceedings and Vladigerov’s dramatic variations fitted the bill nicely. In fact the work ended up giving a reasonably fair account of Staveva’s playing generally: both exciting and knowing… Stavreva’s performance as a whole was an enjoyable and enlightening experience. Her style, admittedly a touch affected at times, fits in with the singularity of the venue perfectly, even if every piece on the programme was composed after 1901!”
Alberto Ginastera - Centenial Concert - Osburnt.com
"The Bulgarian pianist Tania Stavreva opened the program with two Ginastera pieces, followed by her own “Bulgarian Prelude,” written as a tribute to the composer. She’s a sensuous, dramatically aware keyboardist, fascinating to watch, in her fingerwork, as well as to hear." - John Osburn
Mason Bates - Stereo is King (2014) – AllAboutJazz.com
"Pianist Tania Stavreva closes Stereo Is King with an eye-opening performance. The Bulgarian native's solo performance on "White Lies for Lomax" is a stunning display of intricate blues playing and a highlight of the recording." - Karl Ackermann
Album review: Mason Bates, 'Stereo Is King' – San Francisco Chronicle
"...The culminating "White Lies for Lomax," a blues fantasy masterfully delivered by pianist Tania Stavreva, ties up all of Bates' gifts in a single puckish package." - Joshua Kosman