Intermezzo in B flat minor, Op.117/2
Capriccio in B minor, Op.76/2
Intermezzo in A, Op.118/2
Rhapsody in G minor, Op.79/2 Chopin
Fantasy in F minor, Op.49
Ballade in F minor, Op.52 Debussy
Pour le piano Schumann
Ivan Moravec (piano)
South Bank International Piano Series Ivan Moravec (8 December)
Sunday, December 08, 2002 Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
Nosebleeds were all the rage on this day. Your reviewer had one during his pre-concert supper. Mr Moravec had one just before playing his first note. I wonder if the cauldron-like atmosphere of the QEH caused it. Whatever, someone at the South Bank might like to adjust the thermostat downwards. A shame we cant vet the audience. While good that so many people turned up, those that coughed at will, with no attempt to cover or restrain their intrusion, spoilt the occasion, especially in bars of silence. And what can one say about the mobile phone owner who competed with several bars of Chopins Fantasy?
Once Ivan Moravec had recovered, he confirmed his reputation as one of the most thoughtful and masterly pianists around. Yet, that mobile-violated Fantasy, while benefiting from Moravecs sonorous, never forced tone, needed more sense of flight. Some untypical phrasal distortions and Moravecs underplaying of the recurring march-like episode denuded Fantasys stature. So too the Prelude of the concluding item, Pour le piano. Moravec fully appreciated Debussys use of Baroque ornamentation but not always the composers consciousness, which needs more performer largesse. Due solemnity was provided for the Sarabande and Moravecs discretion allowed the concluding Toccata to ripple effectively without being swamped in end-in-itself virtuosity.
Moravec began his recital with an eloquently played Kinderszenen, Schumanns aphorisms of innocence. The pianists crystalline textures and sotto voce tone artlessly combined. Later numbers became intriguingly elusive, a quality not so apparent in Chopins Ballade, which nevertheless enjoyed Moravecs lucid exposition, sensitive touch and articulate virtuosity. The Brahms group included a very moving B flat minor Intermezzo and a truculent G minor Rhapsody.
Encores from Chopin, Smetana and Debussy a perfectly strummed Mazurka in A minor, a cheeky Polka, and a movement from Debussys Childrens Corner that illuminated Moravecs good taste, integrity and unobtrusive insight.