Interpreting Freedom and the ‘Unique Language’ of Composers: NTD International Piano Competition Finalist Evangeliya Delizonas-Khukhua

Interpreting Freedom and the ‘Unique Language’ of Composers: NTD International Piano Competition Finalist Evangeliya Delizonas-Khukhua
Evangeliya Delizonas-Khukhua performs at the preliminaries of the 6th NTD International Piano Competition at the Merkin Concert Hall of the Kaufman Music Center in New York on Oct. 29, 2022. (Wolfgang Lian/The Epoch Times)

It can be considered bad luck to enter a competition twice, but Evangeliya Delizonas-Khukhua had no qualms about entering the 6th NTD International Piano Competition (NIPC) after having made it to the semi-finals round in the 5th NIPC.

An alum of the renowned Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Delizonas-Khukhua had heard positive things about the competition from Russian pianist friends. “It’s a very small community,” she said.

Honored to have made it to the finals and happy to have performed all the works she programmed for the competition, Delizonas-Khukhua said, “I’m very honored to be selected as one of six finalists, because the level of the competition was very high … everybody played so beautifully.”

Delizonas-Khukhua performed Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy and Franck’s Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue during the final round on Nov. 1, 2022, at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City.

“It’s very personal for me. Schubert is a great inspiration to me, his work is a beautiful mix of the Classical and Romantic. And Franck … because he was an organist, he knew Bach before [Bach was widely performed], you can hear the influence in the textures, the genres, but Franck’s language is very unique,” said Delizonas-Khukhua, who is preparing for a Franck performance for her doctorate program at USC Thornton School of Music.

“I read a lot about the composers’ lives and Schubert. He was not wealthy. He bought paper to compose on even when it meant he might not buy food that week. I could feel that in his music,” he said. “He’s very special in music history, a mix of classical traditions. His language is very unique.”

The music Delizonas-Khukhua prepared for the competition comprised of pieces close to her heart and close at hand, staple pieces of her repertoire that she had performed many times before. The sole exception was “The Sacred Journey,” a newly commissioned work for the competition, for which pianists only had 45 days to prepare.

The commissioned piece was arranged by Qin Yuan from a composition by D.F., the artistic director of world-renowned Shen Yun Performing Arts. The arranger of the commissioned piece, a pianist with Shen Yun, is one of the world’s foremost experts on combining ancient Chinese and classical Western music, and the new style was a challenge for many artists.

“It was refreshing to learn something new,” Delizonas-Khukhua said.

On first impression, she was impressed with the level of virtuosity on the page. “But then near the end, there was something interesting to me,” she said. There she found glimpses of America the Beautiful and Greensleeves. To Delizonas-Khukhua, this represented not specific locations, but the idea of freedom.

“That helped me build my understanding of the piece,” Delizonas-Khukhua said. “If at the end of the ‘sacred journey’ the main hero reaches freedom, it means that first he was somewhere where he is not so free. Maybe he’s afraid to speak, maybe he’s afraid to show who he is, his true individuality, this kind of journey to free yourself.”

Music is a universal language and the music of every time and place represents the society from which it emerged, Delizonas-Khukhua said, with millions upon millions of works written throughout the ages, and the masterpieces withstanding the test of time.

“There is not a person on earth who is not moved by music. Every culture, every nation, has its music … has its traditions. It’s deep inside us, in our DNA,” Delizonas-Khukhua said.

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