Cristina Ortiz at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Chopin’s Ballades & Scherzos

Scherzo No.1 in B minor, Op.20; Ballade No.2 in F, Op.38; Scherzo No.3 in C sharp minor, Op.39; Ballade No.4 in F minor, Op.52; Ballade No.1 in G minor, Op.23;Scherzo No.2 in B flat minor, Op.31; Ballade No.3 in A flat, Op.47; Scherzo No.4 in E, Op.54

Cristina Ortiz (piano)

Reviewed by: Alan Sanders

Reviewed: 27 November, 2013
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Cristina Ortiz. Photograph: Sussie AhlburgA near-capacity audience awaited what was billed by Cristina Ortiz in an interview for the programme-book as a “Scherlade” – a concert combination of Chopin’s Ballades and Scherzos. The pianist added having played these pieces many times that she is convinced the best way to present them is to “mix it up a little”: the sequence she devised is set out here. For as long as anyone can remember pianists have picked and chosen single Chopin pieces from collections, or have selected sequences in recital arbitrarily, so there can be little objection to Ortiz’s scheme of things. In fact the sequence worked quite well, or would have done had the renditions been more satisfactory.

A requirement in the performance of much music, certainly Chopin’s for piano, is a strong basic pulse and rhythm. On to this base a performer can introduce expressive devices that can be related by the listener to the overall shape of the work and make sense of an interpretation. If, as Ortiz showed in her playing throughout, rhythms are unstable, then attempts at expression seem garbled, with accents in the wrong places and the music ‘pulled around’.

The interval divided the sequence into halves of four pieces each. In the second Ortiz seemed to settle a little more and in the A flat Ballade in particular there were some passages of real eloquence and poise. But then fences became rushed again, and the overall impression of the evening was of untidy, unfocused execution.

In two encores, Brahms’s E flat Intermezzo from Opus 118, and Fauré’s A flat Impromptu, Opus 34, a change of composer didn’t help Ortiz a great deal, since her playing remained unstable.

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