domingo, mayo 27, 2007

The art of pianism: Anderszewski and Lavandera

Although the piano recital has lost space in recent decades -people tend to prefer bigger shows, especially symphony orchestras- the world has no shortage of outstanding young pianists keeping high the banner of virtuoso command of the instrument. We have the grand veterans still with us, such as Argerich, Brendel or Pollini, but the following two generations have magnificent practitioners of exalted pianism. From 40 to 60-years-old, I wish we could hear in BA such artists as Maria J. Pires or Andras Schiff. Between 20 and 40, two of the best have played for us recently. The Mozarteum Argentino brought us the debut of Pjotr Anderszewski at the Coliseo with two recitals (I heard the first) and Festivales Musicales gave us the opportunity to appreciate Horacio Lavandera in a session dedicated to the initial 19 Nocturnes by Chopin at the Auditorio de Belgrano. Both events were important and valuable.

Advance information on Anderszewski billed him as a specialist on Beethoven's magnificent and redoubtable "Diabelli Variations", comparing him with Glenn Gould and his obsession with Bach's "Goldberg Variations". Both sets are arguably the greatest we have, and vanquising their hurdles is only available to the best pianists. And in both cases the player must have not just an enormous technical equipment but, even more important, the acutest intellectual acumen. I won't say that Anderszewski was absolutely note-perfect, but his mechanism is surely first-rate. His stance in front of the piano is of intense concentration with no histrionism whatsoever. He holds the secret of late Beethoven: a grasp of the grand design of a 45-minute score, very contrasted dynamics (fortissimo followed by pianissimo), meditative ruminations of immense quietness followed by violent fast outbursts of savage imagination, coherence of pulse within each variation. Andersewski is of Polish-Hungarian origin and in his thirties. I certainly liked his "Diabelli" a lot and would hope to hear him in the late Beethoven sonatas.

His first concert started with J.S.Bach's English Suite No. 6. The vexed question of Bach in piano against Bach in harpsichord can't be solved here; my own personal taste is the harpsichord, for the early pianos were much too imperfect and it was written for the older instrument, even if at home he preferred the weak-sounding clavichord. However, some rules must be maintained if you play the English Suites on the piano: steady and sustainable rhythm, a feeling for the adequate ornaments and the dance forms, a perfect articulation and separation between hands, and no wilfulness and rubato (particularly in the Preludes). Gould fails in the last requirement but Anderszewski built the Prelude with a clear sense of style . He believes –and this can be argued- that Bach needs some coloring with the pedal (anathema to the school of Tureck) and shouldn't be played mimicking the harpsichord; I liked the sound and the musicality of what he did, others disliked it. I couldn't hear Anderszewski's second concert, where the "Diabelli" were preceded by Schumann's "Humoresque", frankly Romantic music. What I heard left me in no doubt that Anderszewski, at least in Bach and Beethoven, is in the front line of current players.

Of course, any habitual concertgoer has had plenty of opportunities to hear Horacio Lavandera since he burst on the scene in his early teens and showed a talent of world magnitude. Now in his twenties - though he still looks very young with his slight figure, long hair and baby face- Lavandera now lives in Spain but visits us with assiduity. His versatility is astounding, and he plays Bach, Beethoven and Chopin along with Prokofiev but also Stockhausen and living composers. And he does it all with wonderful command, a virtuoso of undoubted first rank who plays with astonishing ease and perfection. So it was with his traversal of Chopin's first 19 Nocturnes. A point: it was billed as the integral but it wasn't: we didn't hear No. 20, Op.posth, nor No.21, an early work only published in 1938; the concert was anyway very long (almost two hours of music), but exactness has its rights.

The music has influences from the creator of the piano nocturne, the Irishman John Field, and from Bellinian melody, but Chopin imagines poems of infinite delicacy and taste, the traceries of sound of the right hand flowing over the regular left hand accompaniment. The amount of rubato (flexibility avoiding all squareness) is of the essence to give a true account of this lovely music. If you want to hear an ideal version of this repertoire go to Artur Rubinstein: both his rubato and timbre are the authentic thing. As sheer playing you could bask in Lavandera's unerring accuracy and natural phrasing, but the hearer needs a good deal of empathy to fully enjoy such an extended amount of slow, nostalgic, melancholy music, only rarely contrasted with powerful and dramatic episodes. You need variety and this I felt wasn't in sufficient evidence in Lavandera's approach, always musical and sensitive but sometimes too monotonous to hold one's interest. Maybe the microadjustments needed for an even better interpretation will come with time. Also, the piano wasn't as good as the music needs.

I commend Lavandera for tackling such different repertoires and being able to give us extended soft lyricism or harsh percussive twentieth-century music with equal dexterity. Even if his interpretative ideas don't quite jell all the time , he's always a pleasure to hear.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald

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