miércoles, mayo 15, 2013

Lazic and Dichkovskaia: The art of piano playing

            In three successive days our city witnessed piano recitals of the highest level: the marvelous audacity of Dejan Lazic in two sessions for the Mozarteum with identical programme at the Colón, and a Romantic combination of Chopin and Rachmaninov offered with splendid command by Irina Dichkovskaia in a Mozarteum Midday Concert at the Gran Rex. If I give pride of place to Lazic it is because the particular combination of scores he offered showed him to be not only world-class in purely technical terms but because it showed an inquisitive intellect such as few pianists have (Andras Schiff comes to mind).

            I certainly congratulate the Mozarteum in accepting Lazic´s proposal, for neither the institution nor the artist opted for the easy way of giving us recognised masterpieces of surefire success in the right hands. Of course Lazic can play admirably a conventional programme that would fire the spirit of a mainstream audience. However, he had the courage and the intelligence to choose admirable music that most people have never heard, with the possible exception of a couple of Domenico Scarlatti Sonatas.  And he wanted the audience to try to appreciate the hidden liens between Twentieth- and Eighteenth-Century composers.

            Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach is too neglected considering his importance. The second of the children borne to Johann Sebastian by Maria Barbara, CPE not only was the guardian of JSBach´s music, but himself went during his rather long life (1714-88) from the High Baroque to "Sturm und Drang" Classicism. No one represents better the triumphal genius of straddling two momentous epochs of the History of Music and being representative of both. Yet his music is rarely heard, except for some symphonies and concerti and his Magnificat. Exceptionally subtle and innovative in his harmony, as well as a specialist of the "Affektenlehre" ("Theory of the Affects"), his music is an ideal blend of sense and sensibility. Lazic, born in Zagreb (Croatia), but an artistic result of Salzburg´s Mozarteum, has the knack of making music written for the harpsichord sounding completely natural for the piano. He chose a  slow-fast Fantasy in D, Wq 117 Nº 14 (Wq refers to the catalog organised by Alfred Wotquenne in 1905), "La Boehmer" in D, Wq 117 Nº 26 (an Allegro) and Sonata in D minor, Wq 69, made up of a slow first movement and a long Theme with variations. Fascinating music played with crystalline, note-perfect command.

            Apparently Benjamin Britten´s "Holiday Diary", Op.5, is one of his few piano scores (others: a Nocturne and Five Waltzes); curious, because he was a fine pianist. An early work written when he was 21, this suite has four fragments: a rather turbulent "Early Morning Bathe", an ABA "Sailing" (A is calm, B is intense), a brilliant "Fun Fair" and a contemplative "Nocturne". It was stunningly played by Lazic and it may have been a premiere here (ditto por the CPE Bach pieces).

            After the interval a rather fantastic thing happened. Twice D. Scarlatti sonatas were followed by Béla Bartók creations, and again Lazic managed to make the harpsichord originals pianistic, and the Bartók pieces strong and pointed without ever pounding away. Out of the whole programme, only the "Pastoral Sonata" K.9 may be called a standard (K. stands for Ralph Kirkpatrick´s catalog, which superseded the old one by Alessandro Longo –L-). It was followed by K. 430 and K.135, in glittering, diamantine versions, followed by applause. But then came an astonishing experiment: there was no pause whatsoever (Lazic´s gestural stance, allowing just a few seconds of silence, made applause impossible) between Bartók, again Scarlatti, and Bartók for the ending. It reminded me of another astonishing fusion, when Christoph Von Dohnányi conducted Wagner and went on to Ligeti.

            Bartók´s "Six dances on Bulgarian rhythms" are the ending of his whole piano method, "Mikrokosmos", Vol. VI, Nos 148-53 ; endlessly imaginative transpositions of folklore transformed by a master who had done years of field work collecting songs and dances; the irregular Bulgarian rhythms add within the same measure, e.g., 2+2+2+3 beats.  Then, D.Scarlatti´s K. 380, 420 and 82, another three wonderful binary "essercizi" (as he called them) out of an amazing 550 or so. Then, another possible premiere, the expressive Funeral March transcribed  from Bartók´s symphonic poem "Kossuth", on the Hungarian hero of the failed Independence War (1848-9) of Hungary against Austria; Bartók´s first symphonic work. Finally, the "Three rondos on Slovak folk themes", irresistible pieces dated 1927, in lovely performances. Just one encore given to a too-cold audience (though a very silent one): an Istrian dance, hence Croatian.

            I´ll be much briefer about the Belarusian 33-year-old Irina Dichkovskaia, for here we were on much more familiar ground and there´s little to say in a particularised way. Indeed, everything was played with utmost professionalism, always faithful to the score, completely in command of very technical aspect, controlled yet expressive, capable of offering beautiful soft touches in a Chopin Nocturne, or to attack with fearful vigor some powerhouse Rachmaninov. From Chopin: the Fantasia Op.49, the Nocturne Nº 8, Op.27 Nº2 and the Second Scherzo, plus as encores the "Minute Waltz" and the Fantasia-Impromptu. From Rachmaninov: the thick and complex Étude-tableau Op.39 Nº5, three Preludes (the lyrical Op.23 Nº4, the powerful march-like Op.23 Nº5, and the most famnous of all, the Prelude Op.3 Nº2), the Melody Op.3 Nº 3, and the torrential "Moment musical" Op.16 Nº4.

For Buenos Aires Herald

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