CRITICS - Portrait

 


Nicolas Economou

"Fresh wind from Cyprus", "Young daredevil at the Piano", "Volcano with a Russian soul", "Nicolas Economou made the piano fans of Munich gaze in amazement", "no fear of risks - almost suicidal" - you only have to line up the headlines of the concert reviews which have appeared in the most dreaded organ of German music criticism the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" to get an idea of the exceptional position in concert business this young musician is heading for.

Nicolas Economou - a pianist of the Russian school, born 1953 in Nicosia, living in Munich today - does only few recitals a year. But each one of his per­formances is a spectacular event, almost a provocation: The public has to make a decision - and it has been for Economou in nearly all recitals with overwhelming majority. One can, at best, disapprove categorically of his sensibility that is not afraid of extremes but to push him away into the boring mediocrity of the daily concert business is impossible.

 

Joachim Kaiser, the "pope" of German piano criticism wrote about the inter­pretation of the Fantasy in C-major by Schumann that it had been "thrilling like a ride on a rollercoaster five kilometres above ground" and concerning Mus­sorgsky he said: “... it was exciting for all to the brink of exhaustion. One can hardly imagine the 'Pictures of an Exhibition' played more frantically, more brutally."

 

Economou is none of the anxious 'music clerks' who are a product of the age of technical reproducibility, none who evening for evening hammers off his well rehearsed program of effects on the keys. Nowadays it has widely been forgotten that a recital is something different than a ransom pick in one's record collection. Every appearance on stage is a challenge for Economou. To play the piano for him is the direct confrontation with the secrets and monstrosities of great music. He is inspired by imagination, the petty dogmatic purism which the average concert-goers meekly swallow, does not harass him. Whether it may be Bach or Mozart, Liszt or Skrjabin, music played by him (his listeners and critics confirm that again and again) sounds like just composed, like spontaneously created. He interprets from the centre of a composition. The listener who exposes himself to this is dragged along, carried away; he sees structures of a clarity that, admittedly, may seem uncanny to some people.

 

A sensational technique, also for Moscow standards, allows him to avoid any compromise. What was self evident in the times of the great, creative virtuosos of the turn of the century, but only leads a rudimentary existence in the present impoverished, standardized recital business, what isn't even understood any more by some listeners who favour a narrow aestheticism- Economou can revive it in his recitals. The fact that Economou is a composer himself, that his works have been broadcast again and again that he is a conductor, has founded a chamber-music ensemble and has toured several Bavarian cities with his group will not amaze somebody who has once heard Economou.

 

In Munich, where Economou has so far played nearly exclusively, people have quickly realized and appreciated his extraordinary musical talent. In 1979 he got the cultural award for young talents of the city of Munich, he did radio recordings made records and was invited to give recitals in Moscow, Lenin­grad, Riga, to various cities in the GDR and to London.

 

"What kind of advice can one give to this highly gifted pianist; Baldur Bockhoff asked himself in the 'Süddeutsche Zeitung' Moderation and discipline would probably deprive him of his most important gifts. Technically he is perfect too. If Economou wants to appear more frequently on the scene in the future he should try to keep on being difficult and cumbersome but creative. The music business needs exceptional characters like him.

Elmar Zorn, around 1984