ANDERSZEWSKI’S BACH, SZYMANOWSKI, AND CHOPIN AT ZANKEL
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York; Wednesday, February 9, 2005
Piotr Anderszewski’s debut New York recital Wednesday night at Zankel Hall featured composers with whom he’s closely identified, with the predictable result of a brilliantly played program that made the familiar fresh and the unfamiliar stimulating. Bach’s Overture in the French Style was unabashedly pianistic, full of wide dynamic contrasts, overall brisk pacing, and rhythmic life that left no doubts about the dance derivations of the material. The imperious introduction grabbed the attention immediately, the quicksilvered fast movements notable for the pianist’s attention to detail, pointing up the bass figurations and occasionally elevating subsidiary moments to equal status with the main line of the music. At times, his tone seemed to take on a neo-Gouldian sec quality, but it never degenerated into mechanical typewriter effects. The Sarabande was a gorgeous aria, sung in a fluid tempo with beautiful tone. The Echo finale was aptly puckish. A recipient of the Szymanowski Prize, Anderszewski followed with that composer’s Masques, Op. 24. Written during World War I, it’s in three dense movements – Sheherazade, Tantris, the Clown, and The Serenade of Don Juan – in which Debussyian Impressionistic colorations fade into Scriabin-like harmonic adventures and steely Prokofiev-like climaxes. It’s a challenging work, demanding virtuoso keyboard artistry, amply fulfilled by Anderszewski, who made it all sound easy, from the wide dynamic leaps to the myriad color effects.
A trio of Chopin Mazurkas, the Opus 63 set, provided a mild disappointment to ears accustomed to Rubinstein’s directness and dance-inflected interpretations. The second, in F minor, flirted with an aimlessness that a slightly more fluid tempo would have dispelled. But the last of the group, the C-sharp minor, offered a degree of redemption thanks to Anderszewski’s tonal beauty and relatively straightforward singing of the melodic line. Chopin’s big B Minor Sonata, Op. 58, closed the program in style, the pianist tearing into the commanding opening with bold authority and following with an interpretation that avoided the excesses of Romantic ardor while retaining the essentials of the Chopin style. Virtuosity was served with a brightly brisk Scherzo, a Largo whose flowing tempo and singing melody captivated, and an exuberant Presto finale whose triumphantly joyous coda was, as our British cousins say, spot on.