Piano Recital: Eliane Rodrigues
Chopin / Beethoven – Liszt
Klavierissimo Festival 2022
Aula KZO, Wetzikon ZH, 2022-02-24
2022-03-20 — Original posting
Chopin und Beethoven/Liszt: Eliane Rodrigues am Klavierissimo Festival 2022 — Zusammenfassung
Die brasilianische Pianistin Eliane Rodrigues hatte ihren Auftritt am zweiten Tag des viertägigen Klavierissimo-Festival 2022 in Wetzikon ZH. Sie eröffnete ihr Rezital mit dem Zyklus der 24 Préludes, op.28 von Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849). Ihre Interpretation war emotional reichlich überladen, mit exzessivem Rubato und oftmals sehr langsamen Tempi. Einige der Préludes mochten durchaus zu gefallen, beispielsweise das Prélude Nr.9 in E-dur (Largo).
Nach der Pause erklang, als zweites Hauptwerk des Rezitals, die Sinfonie Nr.5 in c-moll, op.67 von Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) in der Bearbeitung für Klavier zu zwei Händen (S.464/5) von Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886). Leider vermochte diese Interpretation noch weniger zu überzeugen. Sie war emotional genauso überladen wie die Chopin-Préludes. Darüber hinaus war das nicht die Transkription einer Beethoven-Sinfonie wie sie Liszt konzipiert hat, mit möglichst getreuer Imitation des Klanges der verschiedenen Instrumentalgruppen im Orchester. Vielmehr erklang die oftmals pompöse Selbstdarstellung der Pianistin in einer Paraphrase nach Liszt’s Transkription. Von Beethoven blieb dabei reichlich wenig übrig.
Eliane Rodrigues gab zwei Zugaben: eine Improvisation nach Praeludium und Fuge in a-moll, BWV 543 von Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) im Stil der Bearbeitungen von Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924). Hier passte der expressiv-aufgeladene Ausdruck der Pienistin durchaus. Als Abschluss ein kleines “Betthupferl”, die Komposition “Carousel”, die Eliane Rodrigues für eines ihrer Kinder geschrieben hat. Ein gefälliges Werk im Stil von Sergei Prokofjew (1891 – 1953) in seiner klassizistischen Periode.
Table of Contents
- Concert & Review
- Chopin: 24 Préludes, op.28
- Beethoven: Symphony No.5 in C minor, op.67 — transcr. Franz Liszt
|Venue, Date & Time||Aula KZO, Wetzikon ZH, 2022-02-24 19:30h|
|Series / Title||Klavierissimo Festival 2022|
|Organizer||Top Klassik Zürcher Oberland|
|Reviews from related events||Reviews from Klavierissimo Festivals: 2018 | 2019 | 2020 (Beethoven) | 2022|
Concerts organized by Top Klassik Zürcher Oberland
Concerts in the Aula of the KZO, Wetzikon ZH
The Klavierissimo Festival 2022
The Klavierissimo Festival is an annual event that takes place in the main convention hall of the regional high school (KZO, Kantonsschule Zürcher Oberland) in Wetzikon ZH (close to Zurich). For concert reviews from earlier instances of the Festival see the set of links (first line in the “Reviews from related events” box above). The Festival runs over four days. This year, it happened between 2022-02-23 and 2022-02-26. It featured a series of piano recitals, culminating in several recitals on the last day. I managed to attend five of these recitals:
- 2022-02-23_19:30h: Marc-André Hamelin
- 2022-02-24_19:30h: Eliane Rodrigues (this review)
- 2022-02-26_15:30h: Konstantin Scherbakov
- 2022-02-26_17:30h: Werner Bärtschi
- 2022-02-26_20:00h: Lucas & Arthur Jussen (duo recital)
The Brazilian pianist Eliane Rodrigues (*1959, see also the German Wikipedia) grew up in Rio de Janeiro. Already at age 6, she made her first appearance on TV. At the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition 1977 she was awarded a special prize. In 1983, she received the 5th prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium, which marked the launch of her international career as concert pianist, touring throughout Europe, also to Carnegie Hall in New York. She also concertized in Russia, where she recorded all five piano concertos by Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953) with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic
Eliane Rodrigues is also a composer and a conductor. She holds a professorship for piano at the Royal Conservatoire in Antwerp.
I hadn’t heard the name of the artist before. Still, the recital caught my interest:
- Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849): 24 Préludes, op.28
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827): Symphony No.5 in C minor, op.67 — transcr. Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886)
The Chopin Préludes are popular, I have written about them, mostly in concert performances (full or partial), and in a CD review. The Préludes alone (especially with an unknown artist) aren’t usually enough to get me to attend a concert. However, the second (and bigger) part of concert featured Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 (popular and familiar, of course) in Franz Liszt’s transcription for the piano. Liszt’s transcriptions are rarely heard in concert. That’s mostly because of their pianistic / technical and physical challenges.
Moreover, one of the recitals two days after this one presented another one of Liszt’s transcriptions, Beethoven’s Symphony No.7. With this, the two recitals offered an opportunity to compare two different pianistic approaches to these challenging works.
The concert venue, a high school convention hall in the form of a semi-circular theater (in a circular building) can hold audiences of up to around 350 people. The Klavierissimo Festival rarely fills it to more than 30 – 40%. I took a seat in the upper third, in the right-hand side block. The acoustics are perfect in that position, the view excellent, especially for taking photos.
The instrument was a Steinway D-274 concert grand in excellent condition, prepared by Bachmann Pianos, Wetzikon.
Concert & Review
Chopin: 24 Préludes, op.28
Composer & Work
Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849) published his set of 24 Préludes, op.28 in 1839. The set includes the following pieces:
- C major: Agitato
- A minor: Lento
- G major: Vivace
- E minor: Largo
- D major: Molto allegro
- B minor: Lento assai
- A major: Andantino
- F♯ minor:& Molto agitato
- E major: Largo
- C♯ minor: Molto allegro
- B major: Vivace
- G♯ minor: Presto
- F♯ major: Lento
- E♭ minor: Allegro
- D♭ major: Sostenuto; this is sometimes called “Raindrop Prélude“. However, that attribution by Hans von Bülow (1830 – 1894) has no real background whatsoever.
- B♭ minor: Presto con fuoco
- A♭ major: Allegretto
- F minor: Molto allegro
- E♭ major: Vivace
- C minor: Largo
- B♭ minor: Cantabile
- G minor: Molto agitato
- F major: Moderato
- D minor: Allegro appassionato
I’m not going into more detail here. More information is available in an earlier posting, where I have compared several recordings of Chopin’s 24 Préludes, op.28. I’m keeping my performance comments short by giving more general comments. I have also written about concert performances of Chopin’s op.28—one complete performance, several recitals with individual Préludes.
With the large number of 24 Préludes, I’m following my sketchy notes from the performance. I didn’t always try packing these remarks into elaborate wording.
1. C major: Agitato
Sonorous, rounded, with a rather pronounced, if not excessive rubato.
2. A minor: Lento
Very dreamy and slow. Slower than any performance that I remember. Note that the piece is in split time (₵, 2/2). The right hand kept a pronounced delay against the bass pattern. If already the second Prélude is so extreme, what does this mean for the remaining 22?
3. G major: Vivace
The semiquaver line in the left hand was blurred and too prominent (the score says p, leggieramente). With the leggieramente, i would expect the left hand to be less dominant. Also, I think that this annotation confirms that the “slurs” in the bass are phrasing annotations, not (necessarily) meant to be legato.
4. E minor: Largo
Another piece in split time (₵, 2/2). Also this was very slow, highly expressive (again with a very pronounced delay in the right hand), often almost stopping the musical flow. Extreme, to say the least.
5. D major: Molto allegro
Strong (extreme) rubato, highly expressive / romantic.
6. B minor: Lento assai
Highly sentimental (as most Préludes so far), very slow, extreme rubato, sad, tragic, ending in an excessive rallentando.
7. A major: Andantino
Soft, restrained, forlorn in dreams, memories. Once more extreme in the slowness, the ritardandi. The annotation is Andantino, which to me implies simplicity, no overloading with rubato and emotions.
8. F♯ minor: Molto agitato
Strong focus on the middle voice (with the punctuations), which was dominating over both the bass, as well as the strongly blurred demisemiquaver figures in the descant. Especially in the ff segments, the textures became very hazy, indistinct, often completely covering the left hand.
9. E major: Largo
Extreme in expression and rubato. Maybe the best interpretation so far, in terms of fulfilling the composer’s notation / intent.
10. C♯ minor: Molto allegro
Semiquaver cascades like waterfalls, rather blurred. Extreme rubato / contrasts to the intermittent “crotchets episodes”. Too extreme?
11. B major: Vivace
Nicely singing—though again with strong rubato, to the point where the last quaver triplet almost turns into a punctuated quaver plus two semiquavers.
12. G♯ minor: Presto
Wildly expressive, racing beyond clarity. In Eliane Rodrigues’ interpretation, this formed a sort of stretta, closing the first part of 12 Préludes. She left a longer pause after this piece, while the previous transitions were either attacca or only featured breaks of a few seconds.
13. F♯ major: Lento
Dream, forlornness. For the beginning of the “second part”, the artist took a very (almost extremely) slow start, only gradually picking up on the pace—only to slow down for moments of high emotional intensity. Extreme rubato—rather extreme altogether.
14. E♭ minor: Allegro
Extreme, almost explosive in the crescendo / decrescendo forks.
15. D♭ major: Sostenuto
Extremes also here—e.g., in the rubato, in some of the ritenuti in the melody (especially in the punctuated motifs). The middle part harmoniously grew out of the D♭ major section, with broad dynamic arches. For the transition back to D♭ major, Eliane Rodrigues used an extreme rallentando, retracting into ppp (more than just p, as in the score). Dreamy, subtle, emote, expressive.
16. B♭ minor: Presto con fuoco
Extreme in the tempo: too fast, this time causing superficialities and mishaps. Way too much sustain pedal, blurring the entire Prélude. Too ambitious, a failure altogether.
17. A♭ major: Allegretto
Yes, the melody was singing nicely. However, by now, the amount of rubato (combined with the delays in the right hand) had become too conspicuous, sometimes to the point of almost being unbearable. Growing into a thundering ff climax. An Allegretto with that much emotion and expression?? Shouldn’t this be more modest, simpler, at least in the (outer) p parts?
18. F minor: Molto allegro
Excessive agogics within the semiquaver motifs, causing superficialities. Imprecise in the touch. Too impulsive, too ambitious?
19. E♭ major: Vivace
Rapture, ecstasy. Often somewhat blurred.
20. C minor: Largo
Pounding, pondering, reflecting, maybe over-significant, over-momentous, if not momentarily (too) monumental.
21. B♭ minor: Cantabile
Focus on the cantilena—but often rather blurred.
22. G minor: Molto agitato
Extreme agogics in the left hand, alternating ritenuto and precipitato. Clarity in the articulation?
23. F major: Moderato
Loaded with expression, rubato, agogics.
24. D minor: Allegro appassionato
Fatigue? Emotional exhaustion? Lacking clarity and definition, frequent superficialities in the right-hand runs. Also often losing control over the sonority (occasionally twanging chords).
In my opinion, the artist’s expression & ambitions exceed the composer’s expectations and intent? The virtuosic pieces are not always clean, too fast maybe, the simpler / slower ones often excessively expressive, especially in the rubato & agogics.
Beethoven: Symphony No.5 in C minor, op.67 — transcr. Franz Liszt
Composer & Work
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827) composed his Symphony No.5 in C minor, op.67 between 1804 and 1808. I’m just giving the list of the movements, for more information see Wikipedia:
- Allegro con brio
- Andante con moto
- Scherzo: Allegro
- Allegro – Presto
Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) finished transcribing Beethoven’s symphonies 5, 6, and 7 in 1837. Only symphonies #5 and #6 were published at that time, though. Liszt did transcribe more of Beethoven’s symphonies in the years that followed. However, it was only further developments in piano technique that ultimately made a complete set look feasible. So, Liszt “recycled” his first set of transcriptions and completed the set. He did make adjustments (few simplifications) to the original transcriptions. The full set was ultimately published 1865, dedicated to the conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow (1830 – 1894).
Let me be clear about the “background” against which I’m commenting Eliane Rodrigues’ interpretation of this transcription. I haven’t written reviews about the two recordings in my own CD collection, but I’m reasonably familiar with them. The older of the two is with Glenn Gould (1932 – 1982) and was recorded in 1968. The more recent one with Konstantin Scherbakov (*1963, see also Wikipedia), who did his recording in 1998, as part of the complete set of Beethoven symphony transcriptions. So far, I have not witnessed a live performance of Liszt’s transcription of Symphony No.5 in C minor.
I. Allegro con brio
The beginning of Beethoven’s fifth symphony is “impossible”. It is real challenge for conductor and orchestra: one cannot conduct the three upbeat quavers. It all depends on giving the preceding two “virtual” downbeats, and the orchestra must pick up and coordinate the rhythm from this. The pianist does not have that problem. However, it’s hard for the pianist to convey an “upbeat feeling” with these three notes. Here, my instant reaction was “that’s not upbeat”! Was this because the three quavers weren’t exactly the same length? There was a “scent” of “taa-ta-ta-daaaa”, i.e., the first quaver seemed a tad longer. And the same occurred with later instances.
Already in the first part of the exposition, I felt that this performance was not the transcription of an orchestral work, rather (maybe) a (loose) piano paraphrase of Beethoven’s symphony. To my dismay, Eliane Rodrigues not only applied the same excessive, extreme rubato as in Chopin’s op.28 (if not even more!), but she also blurred the exposition with the sustain pedal. There were pianistic excesses not just in rubato / agogics and in pedal blurring, but also “impossibly long fermatas“, overblown dynamics and expression, emotional overload. The performance often sounded bombastic, theater-like, and often also rather superficial in the articulation, including missed keys, etc.
A failed, exaggerated pianistic showpiece.
II. Andante con moto
Also here, a vast excess in emotions. Romantic rapture, exaggerated dynamics and ritenuti in upbeats, vast tempo fluctuations / distortions, extreme rubato. Missed keys in dense chord pattern. Occasionally, there were deviations from the text (in parts simplifications). Was the artist maybe performing Liszt’s early, first version of the transcription?
The deviations alone might be acceptable. However, my conclusion is that this wasn’t Beethoven’s symphony. Liszt meant to give audiences access to Beethoven’s symphony even if there wasn’t an orchestra and conductor. This was not meant to be a pianistic, virtuosic showpiece. Even though it undoubtedly is highly virtuosic. However, it also wasn’t Liszt’s transcription that we heard. At best, I would call it a (failed) paraphrase on Liszt’s transcription. And Beethoven appeared to vanish in a distance, far away.
III. Scherzo: Allegro
Again, no trace of an orchestra imitation. One should keep in mind that for every phrase, Liszt’s piano score explicitly mentions the instrumentation in Beethoven’s symphony. Here, there bombastic pianistic excesses, the artist indulging in excesses, in a performance full of exaggerations, superficialities, missed keys. An emotional bath that often enough felt like a caricature.
IV. Allegro – Presto
It didn’t get any better in the Finale—rather worse. I heard sounds that reminded of Beethoven, but while trying to follow the music in the score, I often had serious problems recognizing what I saw in the notation. Was the artist fantasizing? Had she perhaps adapted the score to suit her fingers? Or did she fill memory lapses with improvisation?
Some might say: what are you criticizing? Can you do it better? No, I can’t—I never even learned playing the piano. However, I do know enough to read a piano score and compare it with what I hear. And if a pianist selects to perform pianistic monstrosities such as this one, he or she must inevitably face the comparison with what other artists do. Two days later the audience could get a clear evidence that others can do it much better. Even if that other performance was with Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 (A major, op.92). And even though that performance was not 100% perfect. At least, it remained in the realm of a transcription of an orchestral work. This one clearly wasn’t.
Eliane Rodrigues: Improvisation à la Bach-Busoni
As first encore, Eliane Rodrigues presented an improvisation in the style of an early “Stylus fantasticus” organ work by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750). Actually, in the style of a transcription of Praeludium and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543 by Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924). Especially with the latter allusion, nobody could blame the artist if the encore sounded bombastic, sometimes overloaded. One could take it as virtuosic fun piece.
Eliane Rodrigues: “Carousel”
The second encore was a nice, little piece “Carousel” that she wrote herself, for one of her children. I liked this piece—in the style of Sergei Prokofiev (1891 – 1953) in his classicist period. A nice little highlight to end this recital!