Carl.czerny called Beethoven’s Op. 7, the composer’s Appassionata, not op. 57. My sense was that Pierdomenico never heard this advice and approached this in a typical classical style. Not without reason; Beethoven was not far removed from his lessons with Haydn when this piece was written. And not without success: Pierdomenico doesn't shy away from the explosive moments of the second movement and there is a certain gracefulness even to the energetic first movement.
Program wise I really like Pierdomenico’s whole solo recital repertoire choices. He showcases all the major sides of 19th-century pianism: Brahms, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, now Chopin (yes, Rachmaninoff’s pianism is essentially borne in the 20th century!). These Chopin Ballads are like narrative fantasies, and Pierdomenico achieves a believable balance between wandering and drive. Sometimes the tempo spins out of control in such a convincing way (haven't we all been so emotional we don't think straight for a moment), the next moment-and it could be a repeated phrase-it’s virtually steady again.
I was also happy to see the audience applaud after Nos. 1 and 3. I once attended a performance of all 4 Chopin Ballades by a pianist where no one clapped in between; it’s so anticlimactic. Now the pianist was a grouch who shot dirty looks at anyone who coughed during his masterclass the day before, so it was probably just as well. I don’t think Pierdomenico had to stand up and bow necessarily, he could have turned and nodded, but it’s also fine that he did.
I appreciated Broberg’s attention to inner voices in the Schubert. He brought harmonies, counter-melodies, variations out. The latter especially in the c-minor impromptu, when the melody can get so repetitive, he always found something new to bring out of the texture. In the Eb, he paid careful attention to voice the left-hand chords on beat two, bringing out the top note, which didn’t necessarily yield a counter-melody all the time, but created more interesting texture than the bass and right-hand alone can fill.
My former teacher, Paul Barnes, does a lecture-recital on Liszt’s religious connections to the Sonata, and I believe the section at M. 297 (start listening at about 38:50) iis what he refers to as the crucifixion scene. Broberg may or may not know of that interpretation, but he brings it to life nonetheless. The octaves that precede take off in a storm, and a pregnant pause signals an important moment is ahead. The chords at 297 are aggressive and full, dark and painful.
My favorite moment of this Sonata is the climax at 393-397 Broberg played it majestically with plenty of fortissimo and pulling back of the tempo. Throughout, he managed the difficult passage work with ease, still being musical, and without relying on the pedal so that he could use it for color, or revert to a dryer sound to get a lot of variety in one phrase. This was a virtuoso and poetic performance.
Listen to those cellos and violas in the Romanza of Tony Yike Yang’s Mozart concert. Such beautiful interaction with the melody. No wait, it was the pianist’s left hand! Mozart was proficient on the string instruments and no doubt intended his homophonic textures in piano music to be imbued with rhythmic and articulation nuance that the lower string instruments provide in an orchestral or chamber music setting. I also loved his nuances on the climbing 3 eighth note motives that permeates the theme. Not just varying them with ‘here’s a loud one, here’s a soft one’, he created vastly different colors and directions to continue the narrative.
I loved his phrasing of the finale theme. He ‘helped’ the natural call and answer of the opening phrase, to show the drive upward by really going for the sforzando high note, and allowing the harmony to relax on the descent. Consider his sensitive accompaniment color in the D-major coda. His piano playing bubbled along with the orchestral, never hidden, but never taking over, just adding to the excitement.
This would have to be my favorite performance of Yekwon Sunwoo’s in the competition. I think he is thinking of Mozart much more romantically, and I don’t mind. The energetic passages have some bite, he phrases repeated passages in very different ways, (consider the second theme in the first movement) as if in the midst of a great speech, emphasizing a point for greater interest. And he utilizes rubato in his solo passages. Usually just slight agogic delays but it’s very effective. I can’t believe I didn’t hear this kind of playing in his Beethoven Op. 109 this round!
He also took the risk in the second movement of not being the prominent voice even when he had the melody, at least upon the return of the theme. After all, we’ve heard him do it, plus the orchestra, why not hear how the long pedal tones from the orchestra interact with the melody in the piano. He joined the trend of ornamenting the melody line too, very smart. Mozart was never about just what’s on the page!
Overall I don’t have much to say about Hans Chen’s Mozart...His codas were brilliant and showed his intentionality as an artist in the places he went compositionally, and the way he played them musically. I just think you can play Mozart’s writtens notes the same way you improvise upon his written notes.
My two main points in Mozart are 1) involve the left hand and 2) shape repetitions differently, whether or not the notes change and the rhythm stays the same. Rachel Cheung is magnificent on point number one. Point number two as a test detracts from her overall impression. Consider the sequential left hand octaves towards the end of the first movement development. Each stop in the harmonic progression is shaped the same as it was the previous stop, and will be shaped the same way again. Especially in the development, especially in Mozart whose material is so beautiful, sequential development is often all he can do to it, each of these harmonies should be one stop on a journey, instead of running around in a circle. Even if you change your shoes each lap, you’re running in the same spot.
But, I get the enthusiasm I’ve seen online for Rachel Cheung. She does have a lot of honesty in her approach and I do not think there is any impediment to her ability to project her musical intentions.
My Top 6 Predictions:
Tony Yike Yang
The Real Finalists:
I'm 2/6 this time! At this point there are 2 of the semi-finalists who I deeply regret not seeing; and only 1 of the finalists I am not looking forward to. But-luckily there will be lots of variety between the concertos which is awesome for us, a little more work for the Fort Worth Symphony.
I wanted to say a few words about the recent Richard Dare article that has popped up…It’s gotten some criticism but I’m a big fan. I don’t agree with everything, however. I don’t think we can justify people milling about the concert hall, or singing along, talking…that is, if we are to only present a typical classical concert environment.
I think audiences should atleast occasionally have the chance to hear music in the environment it was conceived for—that is, chamber music is chamber music. A string quartet I admire on many levels, who I’ve had the pleasure of being coached by (the Chiara Quartet) has done tours of “Beethoven in Bars”. Why not? Let people take what they want out of it and leave the rest. Chances are it’s the people who are relaxed, and caught by surprise, not expecting to experience this music this night, who will be the most intrigued. Even “concert music” was performed in a social setting, and I’ve written about this tangentially in a past blog.
At the same time, though, a lot of contemporary music was conceived for a quiet concert hall, and should be performed as such. You won’t get much out of Wuorinen by listening to him casually. This stuff needs to be the center of attention.
I’ve said for a while now, and I will continue to say, anyone is welcome to clap anywhere and at any time during one of my solo performances. It might distract me—oh well, I’ll deal with it and it will add to the humanness of my playing. Perhaps a little discomfort on stage is what we need to relax and make enthralling music.
More than anything, I want to be able to react to a performance that I’m watching how I like to react to a performance that I’m giving. I used to be motionless when I played, and my playing was quite emotionless. I was self-consciousness embodied in sound. As I started to come out of my shell, I just let myself move, shuffle my feet, sway, sing, react facially to what I was trying to convey…And not only was my playing transformed but my enjoyment of music, my insight and my critical listening skills all grew immensely.
Thus I hope to experience music as a listener, the same way I experience it as a performer. I think non-classical musicians would feel the way I do about music if they were allowed to experience it how they tend to experience and enjoy their choice music. Perhaps Dare’s larger point is this: who is prescribing how classical music is ‘supposed’ to be experienced? It’s certainly not the classical composers, not performers from ages past. Why not relax arbitrary rules?…None of the critical comments I read address Dare’s points that the classical music environment is a wholly unwelcoming one. Why wouldn’t we want to change that, if at least to offer a continuum of concert experiences from the casual and social to the serious and formal.
My favorite performing experience of my career was this past fall when I played at the Clazel Theater in Bowling Green as part of the New Music Festival in town…I played, walked off stage to the bar and ordered a drink, then I mingled, took in the rest of the performers. People got a lot of my piece, I got a lot out of others, and I enjoyed myself socially…I’ve also performed this year in sock feet, I’ve kneeled on the stage to play toy piano, and I wore a plain blue t-shirt for my own solo recital. If you weren’t watching video, you’d never know. But I prepared just as seriously for those performances as the ones when I wore a tux. I can assure you that each time I was enjoying myself on that stage more than if I was performing under “traditional” concert situations; surely that showed in the quality of my playing.
"Modern performers seem to regard their performances as texts rather than acts, and to prepare for them with the same goal as present-day textual editors: to clear away accretions. Not that this is not a laudable and necessary step; but what is an ultimate step for an editor should be only a first step for a performer, as the very temporal relationship between the functions of editing and performing already suggests." -Richard Taruskin, Text and Act