Gaspard de la nuit
Chôros No.5 (Alma brasileira)
Sonata in F minor, Op.5
Cristina Ortiz (piano)
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: 6 March, 2005
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Cristina Ortiz seemed ill-at-ease when waiting to begin each piece of this afternoon recital; maybe it was just the challenges ahead. Those challenges were not well met, however; nor was the piano’s emaciated treble sound ingratiating in the Schumann, a rendition with its share of awkwardness and unvaried tone; a lack of fantasy, too. The Brahms sonata, to close the recital, was something of a mountain for Ortiz to climb. She battled, and played the intimate passages with sensitivity, but there was too much that was laboured, skimped, and glossed over.
By this time, the piano sounded fuller; maybe ears had adjusted or the tuner had had another go during the interval (the recital was delayed starting due to a late-running tuning process). Not surprisingly, Ortiz dispensed her Brazilian countryman Villa-Lobos’s Chôros No.5 with aplomb, a five-minute piece of sub-Rachmaninov soulful expression and some upbeat local colour.
Gaspard de la nuit was the recital’s highlight. Yes, there was awkwardness here, too, but Ortiz threw herself into the final ‘Scarbo’ movement and whipped up a frenzy that was certainly compelling. She also created atmosphere, although the tolling bell of ‘Gibet’ could have been more distant, the whole movement more hypnotic, and the opening paragraphs of ‘Ondine’ more seamless. Yet there was compunction to listen – to a drama being unfolded; this may not have been a transcendental account (of a fiendishly difficult piece) but it was certainly a compelling one.
There were two encores, the second was a fairly anonymous piece by another Brazilian (not unlike Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance, but nowhere near as memorable) and the first was a Prelude by Tubin, brief and beautiful and played with real sympathy.