lunes, septiembre 07, 2015

Three admirable pianists of about the same age

             Boris Giltburg, born 1984; Mauricio Balat, 1983; Horacio Lavandera, 1984. The first is Russian-Israeli, the other two Argentine. All three are true virtuosi and started early, as most first-rate pianists do. And all three have won prizes in competitions.

 In fact, we are going through a Golden Age of the piano and with due patience and investigation I could probably give you a list of fifty very gifted young pianists all over the world.

 The three I mentioned above were before our public in concert, all within eight days. I will review them chronologically, so I start with Balat, who gave a joint recital with violinist Daniel Robuschi for the Soirées Musicales Premium of the Sofitel, coördinated by Patricia Pouchulu. This series has the characteristic that after the concert there´s a catering and you can talk with the players, which I did, for I have known Balat for many years, as the most valuable disciple of the recently deceased great pianist and teacher Pía Sebastiani.

 If a violin-piano recital is made up of sonatas, the technical and interpretative requirements are absolutely equal, and some of them are the devil to play. So you can judge the qualities of a pianist almost as well as in a purely pianistic recital.

They chose an excellent trio of sonatas. Balat and Robuschi are both members of the National Symphony; the first plays piano and celesta, and the second is assistant concertmaster. Although Robuschi is of the preceding generation, it was soon evident that these artists understand each other very well. Mozart´s Sonata K. 304 is in E minor and when he wrote in minor tonalities he always surprised his audiences with what for the time was avantgarde; the two movements are  exquisite and dramatic, a short jewel that was beautifully expressed by both players.

 Debussy´s sole Sonata for these instruments is very late in his life and its three movements go through a myriad of moods. I hadn´t seen Robuschi in a recital before and was surprised by his very clean technique and innate musicality; of course I knew those qualities in Balat, adapted to the half Impressionistic, half Neoclassic language of the score.

 The massive but enormously lyrical Sonata by César Franck is a masterpiece. A cyclical creation, its basic material is developed with endlessly varied talent; both the second and fourth movements are fraught with dangerous passages, very well vanquished by the players. After the density of this music, I thought the encore rather poorly chosen (Piazzolla´s "Tanguango").

 Giltburg is a known quantity in this city, for this was his fourth visit; I was vividly impressed in earlier seasons by his virtuosic technique and impetus, and that was again the case in his current recital. It was a benefit for B´nai B´rith, the 85-year-old institution that has provided valuable social services decade after decade in many fields, including culture, medicine, religion. The concert was given with the auspices of the Fundación Beethoven at their auditorium, Santa Fe 1452 (led by Pìa Sebastiani until recently and now by her very active daughter, who presents there the Met opera season).

  Two cavils: a) for some reason Giltburg changed the announced programme, which had Mozart (Sonata Nº 2), Brahms (Sonata Nº 1), Schumann ("Papillons"), Ravel ("Valses nobles et sentimentales") and Liszt ("Mephisto Waltz"). b) The small Kawai piano utilized is good of its kind, clear and well-tuned, though it can´t compete with a Steinway grand piano.

 Giltburg kept "Papillons" but added another Schumann, "Carnaval", that quotes the earlier work at one point. And gave us Russian music after the interval: Rachmaninov´s "Moments musicaux" (the fast ones are terribly difficult and intricate)  and Prokofiev´s Second Sonata, percussive and vurtuosic.

The technique as such was impressive throughout, but I found his Schumann interpretations too free, almost capricious in tempi. The Russians were consistently stunning. Encores: an arrangement of Sibelius´ "Valse triste", which I didn´t like in this form, and Prokofiev´s "Diabolical  Suggestion", which responds to its title indeed.

 Lavandera is very active at various venues, so I select among his numerous presentations. I was attracted by his programme for Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo and I found him in splendid form. His combination of Beethoven´s Sonatas Nos. 17 ("The Tempest") and 18 was a great idea, for they are contrasting masterpieces endlessly fascinating, and I´ve never heard better Beethoven from Lavandera: incredibly exact in his respect for every detail of the score, perfect in the execution, he was a great pianist.

 Anecdote: he was bothered by coughs and even menaced between movements to stop the concert if he didn´t have silence; I felt he overdid it: I´ve heard much worse in this same season.

There was a lot of Chopin in Part II: Preludes Op.28 Nos. 7, 8, 15 and 16; Polonaise Op.53, "Heroic"; and the long Polonaise Fantasy Op.61. I felt him less attuned stylistically than in Beethoven, but the playing was often astounding. And of course the Concert Paraphrase on Verdi´s "Rigoletto" (specifically on the Fourth Act Quartet) by Liszt was a virtuoso "tour de force".

The encores were an exaggerated six (he kept sitting at the piano after seconds of applause): three Piazzollas (an ample and rhetoric "Adiós Nonino", "Fuga y Misterio" and a fast one I didn´t recognize) and three Chopins (the "Revolutionary Etude", Nocturne Nº 13 and the Fantasia Impromptu).

For Buenos Aires Herald

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