South Bank International Piano Series – Ivan Moravec (8 December)

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
Fantasy in F minor, Op.49
Ballade in F minor, Op.52
Pour le piano
Kinderszenen, Op.15

Ivan Moravec (piano)

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 8 December, 2002
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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 can’t 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 Chopin’s 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 Moravec’s sonorous, never forced tone, needed more sense of flight. Some untypical phrasal distortions and Moravec’s underplaying of the recurring march-like episode denuded Fantasy’s stature. So too the ’Prelude’ of the concluding item, Pour le piano. Moravec fully appreciated Debussy’s use of Baroque ornamentation but not always the composer’s consciousness, which needs more performer largesse. Due solemnity was provided for the ’Sarabande’ and Moravec’s 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, Schumann’s aphorisms of innocence. The pianist’s crystalline textures and sotto voce tone artlessly combined. Later numbers became intriguingly elusive, a quality not so apparent in Chopin’s Ballade, which nevertheless enjoyed Moravec’s 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 Debussy’s Children’s Corner that illuminated Moravec’s good taste, integrity and unobtrusive insight.

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