Sonata in C, HXVI:50
Ballade in G minor, Op.23
Ballade in A flat, Op.47
Six Piano Pieces, Op.118
Mikrokosmos (Book VI) Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm
Venezia e Napoli
Dejan Lazic (piano)
Reviewed by: Rob Pennock
Reviewed: 12 May, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London
It is rumoured that in the bad old days there were international concert pianists who wilfully distorted and sometimes altered the music of even the greatest of composers in order to wow the audience and gratify their own showman-like egos; the most recent example of such a pianist would be – for some – György Cziffra. Today such practices are frowned upon; indeed with some contemporary super-virtuosos one could be forgiven for thinking that spontaneity of any kind is discouraged.
I was therefore somewhat taken aback when the 28-year-old Dejan Lazic began the Haydn Sonata with a clear bell-like tone, crisp staccato phrasing and small tempo variations which sounded close to twee. He then slowed down for the second subject and indulged in some very dubious hairpin dynamics and rubato. The second movement started too loud, the tempo was so slow that phrases almost failed to cohere, and there were many pianistic effects; in the finale he took a similarly cavalier approach to rhythm and dynamics: by the last chord I wasn’t sure whether what I had heard was delightful or self-indulgent.
This quandary was resolved in the two Chopin Ballades, which received the worst performances I have ever heard. Both were far too slow, there were a host of ritartandos and accelerandos, the dynamic contrasts were extreme – including some horribly effete pppp passages – and there no sense of line or tension; both works simply became a series of sections linked only by the pianist’s distortions.
In the Brahms pieces – among the composer’s last music – once again Lazic’s tempos were uniformly slow; there was no light and shade in the tone, lumpy phrasing, and no sense of fantasy. Thus everything sounded formless and tired. To be able to get away with late Brahms at these speeds you need enormous concentration: Lazic doesn’t have this as yet. The Bartók was better; there was more spontaneity but even here the bar-to-bar changes of rhythm were not sufficiently differentiated; there was little attack and, again, no sense of fantasy. Of the Liszt little can be said: the Gondolier’s song was a slow and shapeless series of notes; the rhapsody-like elements were ignored or became laboured; and, in the huge central climax of the Lento, Lazic’s tone and expression reminded me of Dr Phibes playing the organ.
Technically Lazic was well nigh perfect but interpretatively he was totally OTT. At the end of the Liszt there was booing – an unusual occurrence at the Wigmore, but entirely deserved and warranted.