Piano Recital: Alexander Lonquich
C.P.E. Bach, Schumann, Liszt, Schönberg, Busoni/Schönberg
Klavierissimo Festival 2023
Aula KZO, Wetzikon ZH, 2023-02-22
2023-03-16 — Original posting
Pianistische Exzellenz: Alexander Lonquich am Klavierissimo Festival 2023— Zusammenfassung
Am Eröffnungskonzert des diesjährigen Klavierissimo Festivals präsentierte der deutsche Pianist Alexander Lonquich (*1960 in Trier) ein reichhaltiges, interessantes Programm voller Querbezüge. Als verbindendes Element nannte der Pianist in seiner Einleitung das Klage- oder Trauermotiv, die fallende Sekund. Wenn dieses auch nicht immer prominent auftauchte, so könnte man dennoch als weiteren Querbezug die Empfindsamkeit nennen. Diese findet sich exemplarisch in der einleitenden Freien Fantasie in fis-moll, Wq.67, H.300 von Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714 – 1788), sowie im letzten Programmpunkt, den Davidsbündlertänzen, op.6 von Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856), und in dessen Arabeske in C-dur, op.18.
Düster war die Stimmung in der Bagatelle sans tonalité, S.216a, einem Spätwerk von Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886). Von Sehnsucht und Verzweiflung erzählt die Episode “Vallée d’Obermann“, der Nr.6 aus den “Années de Pèlerinage, 1ère Année – Suisse“, S.160 des gleichen Komponisten.
Zentral im Programm waren auch zwei eng verbundene Werke, das Klavierstück Nr.2 aus Drei Klavierstücke, op.11 von Arnold Schönberg (1874 – 1951), welches den definitiven Übergang von der Spätromantik zur freien Atonalität dieses Komponisten markiert. Schönberg sandte sein Klavierstück Nr.2 dem berühmten Pianisten Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924), in der Hoffnung, dass dieser es in sein Repertoire aufnehmen würde. Statt dessen kreierte dieser daraus (zu Schönbergs Missfallen) seine Konzertmäßige Interpretation, BV B 97 mit zahlreichen Änderungen und Zusätzen.
Der stille Schluss von Schumanns Davidsbündlertänzen war an sich stimmig für das Programm. Dennoch fand Alexander Lonquich mit dem Impromptu Nr.2 in Fis-dur, op.36, B.129, CT 44 von Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849) eine Zugabe, die sich nicht nur harmonisch anfügte, sondern auch dem Konzert einen pianistisch und musikalisch glänzenden Schlusspunkt verpasste.
Table of Contents
- Concert & Review
- Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Freie Fantasie in F♯ minor, Wq.67, H.300
- Robert Schumann: Arabesque in C major, op.18
- Franz Liszt: Bagatelle sans tonalité, S.216a
- Arnold Schönberg: Klavierstück No.2 from Drei Klavierstücke, op.11
- Franz Liszt: “Années de Pèlerinage, 1ère Année – Suisse”, S.160: 6. Vallée d’Obermann
- Ferruccio Busoni: Concert Interpretation of Schönberg’s Klavierstück op.11/2, BV B 97
- Robert Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze, op.6
- Encore — Chopin: Impromptu No.2 in F♯ major, op.36, B.129, CT 44
|Venue, Date & Time||Aula KZO, Wetzikon ZH, 2023-02-22 19:30h|
|Series / Title||Klavierissimo Festival 2023|
|Organizer||Top Klassik Zürcher Oberland|
|Reviews from related events||Reviews from Klavierissimo Festivals: 2018 | 2019 | 2020 (Beethoven) | 2022 | 2023|
Concerts organized by Top Klassik Zürcher Oberland
Concerts in the Aula of the KZO, Wetzikon ZH
Media reviews featuring Alexander Lonquich
The Klavierissimo Festival 2023
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 2023-02-22 and 2023-02-25. It featured a series of piano recitals, culminating in several recitals on the last day. I chose to attend three of these recitals:
- 2023-02-22 19:30h: Alexander Lonquich (this review)
- 2023-02-23 19:30h: Maxim Lando
- 2023-02-24 19:30h: Claire Huangci
The Artist: Alexander Lonquich
The German pianist Alexander Lonquich (*1960, Trier / Germany; pronunciation: ‘lonkviç) is not new to this blog. Besides his activities as pianist (particularly as chamber musician and in solo recitals), Alexander Lonquich ist also conducting. For information on the artist’s biography see his Wikipedia entry. For earlier reviews featuring this artist see the link above.
- Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714 – 1788): Freie Fantasie in F♯ minor, Wq.67, H.300
- Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856): Arabesque in C major, op.18
- Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886): Bagatelle sans tonalité, S.216a
- Arnold Schönberg (1874 – 1951): Drei Klavierstücke, op.11: Klavierstück No.2
- Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886): “Années de Pèlerinage, 1ère Année – Suisse“, S.160: 6. Vallée d’Obermann
- Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924): Concert Interpretation of Schönberg’s Klavierstück op.11/2, BV B 97
- Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856): Davidsbündlertänze, op.6
- (Encore) Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849): Impromptu No.2 in F♯ major, op.36, B.129, CT 44
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
The evening opened with a brief introduction by the artistic director of the festival, Werner Bärtschi (*1950). After this, the artist of the evening, Alexander Lonquich, added some explanations on his program, which he called “unusual”. Unusual it was, indeed! The pianist said that he put the program under the theme of “mourning”. He mentioned the “mourning motif” or “sigh motif” (Klagemotiv, Trauermotiv), the interval of the falling second. This dates back to early baroque times, and Alexander Lonquich stated that one can find this in most of the pieces in his program.
As a second bracketing feature in his program, the artist mentioned the transgression of harmonic / chromatic boundaries. Lonquich finds this in C.P.E. Bach’s Fantasie, or in Schönberg’s piano pieces op.11. He called the latter the “first truly atonal pieces in Europe”. Despite this, a recurring ostinato figure in the bass makes the listener feel “at home” around a harmonic “focal point”.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: Freie Fantasie in F♯ minor, Wq.67, H.300
Composer & Work
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714 – 1788) is the fifth child and second surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) and his first wife, Maria Barbara Bach (1684 – 1720). C.P.E. Bach spent most of his life in Berlin (1738 – 1768) and Hamburg (1768 – 1788). His very large oeuvre includes liturgic works, 22 symphonies, around 100 concertos, chamber music, and, most prominently, a large number (over 400) of keyboard works. At his time, C.P.E. Bach’s reputation by far exceeded that of his father. For some general notes about C.P.E. Bach’s legacy and musical style see Wikipedia.
The manuscript of the Freie Fantasie in F♯ minor, Wq.67, H.300 is dated from 1787. The fantasy is in a single movement. Its sections bear the following annotations:
Adagio — Allegretto — Largo — Adagio — Largo — Adagio — Allegretto — Adagio — Allegretto — Largo
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Fantasy in F♯ minor is a piece out-of-the-ordinary! It combines the peculiar, frequent mood swings of the (post-baroque) Empfindsamer Stil with the “erratic” fabulations of the Stylus fantasticus that the composer’s father, Johann Sebastian Bach, brought back from his stay with Dieterich Buxtehude (1637 – 1707) in Hamburg. The many tempo annotations give an idea about the expressive richness in this music.
Clearly, this is music for the fortepiano, an early predecessor of the modern concert grand. The latter is a far cry from the richness in colors of the early instruments. It lacks features such as the moderator, and it cannot offer the fortepiano’s brightness, the richness in harmonics / colors. Therefore, one should keep in mind the heavily “filtered” nature of any interpretation on a modern concert grand. For bigger concert venues, though, the piano’s bigger sound is definitely an advantage.
Alexander Lonquich did his best in making the listener forget the sonoric alterations imposed by the Steinway grand. He avoided excess use of the sustain pedal, playing the fantastical, free Allegretto cadenzas with great agility, clarity and lightness. The Adagio segments were highly expressive, rich in rubato / agogics. They resembled recitativo accompagnato with erratic (capricious?) interjections. The latter are also present in the Largo which otherwise resembled highly expressive ariosos, rich in “curly” ornaments.
The artist made the transitions between the segments appear seamless. In fact, despite the dramatic changes in character, Alexander Lonquich presented the piece in one single, dramatic arch—though highly diverse, multifaceted. Some may call this music weird—I found it a highly interesting, theatrical “story” / drama.
Robert Schumann: Arabesque in C major, op.18
Composer & Work
Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) wrote his Arabeske in C major, op.18 in 1839, one year after he moved from Leipzig to Vienna. In Vienna, he communicated with Clara Wieck (1819 – 1896) through letters only—and through his music, such as this Arabeske. Schumann’s annotation in this single-movement piece are
Leicht und Zart (Light and delicate, ♩= 132) —
Minore I, etwas langsamer (More slowly, ♩= 126) —
Ruhiger (calmer) — Tempo I —
Minore II, Etwas langsamer (♩= 126) —
Tempo I —
Zum Schluss, Langsam (♩= 58)
Clara Schumann later modified the first three metronome marks to 126, 112, and 120, respectively (no change in the last part).
I have reviewed an earlier performance of Schumann’s op.18, in a piano recital on 2022-10-14.
The performances and recordings of this piece that I heard in the past must have been following Clara Schumann’s moderated tempo annotations. In my memory, they were even distinctly slower than that. With this, Alexander Lonquich’s fluid pace took me by surprise. This was definitely at least Schumann’s original pace. Around the peak of the arches in the Leicht und zart segments, the artist followed the dynamics with a substantially faster pace. However, it all felt highly harmonious, expressive, with intimacy and warm emotionality. Wonderful!
The Minore I alternated between earnest / expressive and introverted characters, leading into an expressive recitative (Ruhiger), followed by the initial theme. The Minore II is an even more dramatic, resolute intermezzo. After the third instance of the Leicht und zart segment, the artist prolonged the quarter rest: a long gap, which highlighted the intimacy, the extraordinary emotional depth and reflective nature of the final Langsam closure. It was a mix of melancholy, longing, memories, solace, maybe also a touch of sadness, resignation? So touching, intense!
Franz Liszt: Bagatelle sans tonalité, S.216a
Composer & Work
Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) wrote his Bagatelle sans tonalité, S.216a, in 1885. It is one of Liszt’s experimental, late piano pieces. Apart from Bagatelle sans tonalité, the title page calls it the “Fourth Mephisto Waltz”. Sans tonalité of course does not mean atonal. It merely refers to the (frequent) absence of a defined, central key, of conventional cadences. This is specifically prominent in the opening bars, which are harmonically vague, undefined. They probably sounded revolutionary to contemporary audiences.
After the enigmatic opening bars, Liszt returned to the dark, earnest tone that is so typical of his late piano style. A true Bagatelle: capricious, at times erratic, often light and virtuosic. There are annotations such as scherzando, sempre leggiero e scherzando, leggierisimo.
I have reviewed performances of Liszt’s Bagatelle sans tonalité, S.216a, in reviews from earlier piano recitals.
Alexander Lonquich’s interpretation was brilliant: playful, iridescent in the extreme rubato, virtuosic, light, never losing clarity. Errand, yet never losing focus, finally urging into the abrupt, enigmatic, open ending. To me, one striking feature of this performance was in how much it appeared to relate to the phantastic nature of C.P.E. Bach’s Fantasy in F♯ minor!
Arnold Schönberg: Klavierstück No.2 from Drei Klavierstücke, op.11
Composer & Work
Arnold Schönberg (1874 – 1951) is considered one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He is known as the father (or the inventor) of dodecaphony. He described this in publications in 1919 and 1923. Prior to that (up to 1908), however, Schönberg wrote music in the style of late Romanticism, followed by a period where he used free atonality (1908 – 1919). In this period (1909) he wrote his Drei Klavierstücke (three pieces for piano), op.11. The pieces have the following annotations:
- Mäßige ♩
- Mäßige ♪
- Bewegte ♪
Alexander Lonquich selected the Klavierstück No.2, which alternates between 12/8 and 4/4 meters.
The opening ostinato in the bass, as well as the subsequent intervals in the right hand felt “hollow”, like in a void (and atonal, of course). However, it took only a few bars until I felt “at home” in this music, able to access its emotional content. Once “in” that music, one could easily sense its reflective, pensive mood, the pondering. In some ways, the interpretation made the music feel harmonious, even (almost) romantic in spirit. In dynamic build-ups, the chords grew denser, more dissonant. However, even here, the dominant impression wasn’t that of dissonances, but one of emotional urge, narrowing, intensification.
I didn’t note many “classic” sighing motifs. However, the dominance of falling intervals must have contributed to the feeling of sadness, of despair, maybe hopelessness. After a segment with ethereal, even aeolian sonorities (pppp), Alexander Lonquich let the emotions build up to an expressive climax. This culminated in a series of ff trills. After that, the piece falls back into the initial, pondering / reflecting mood. Not even the short, last climax offered solace / remedy for this.
The composer specified 6 minutes for the piece. Alexander Lonquich’s interpretation was substantially longer (around 9 minutes). In my opinion, this was to the benefit of the music. A compelling, highly expressive, even touching interpretation. Simply excellent!
Franz Liszt: “Années de Pèlerinage, 1ère Année – Suisse“, S.160: 6. Vallée d’Obermann
Composer & Work
Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) published the first volume of his suites “Années de Pèlerinage” (Years of Pilgrimage), with the title “Années de Pèlerinage, 1ère Année – Suisse“, S.160 in 1855. Further volumes followed in 1858 (Deuxième année: Italie, S.161), in 1861 (the supplement Venezia e Napoli, S.162), and finally 1883 (Troisième année). The first volume features the following movements:
- Chapelle de Guillaume Tell (William Tell’s Chapel)
- Au lac de Wallenstadt (At Lake Walenstadt)
- Au bord d’une source (Beside a Spring)
- Orage (Storm)
- Vallée d’Obermann
- Eglogue (Eclogue)
- Le mal du pays (Homesickness)
- Les cloches de Genève (The Bells of Geneva): Nocturne
From these, Alexander Lonquich selected the sixth movement, “Vallée d’Obermann“, which was inspired by a novel with that title, by Étienne Pivert de Senancour (1770 – 1846). Wikipedia writes of “a hero overwhelmed and confused by nature, suffering from ennui and longing, finally concluding that only our feelings are true“. In the captions, Liszt refers to stanza 97 from Canto III in “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” by Lord Byron (1788 – 1824):
Could I embody and unbosom now That which is most within me, — could I wreak My thoughts upon expression, and thus throw Soul — heart — mind — passions — feelings — strong or weak — All that I would have sought, and all I seek, Bear, know, feel — and yet breathe — into one word, And that one word were Lightning, I would speak; But as it is, I live and die unheard, With a most voiceless thought, sheathing it as a sword
Additional captions quote Senancour’s “Vallée d’Obermann” with the central questions “What do I want? Who am I? What do I ask of nature?“
Liszt’s score is full of ritardandi / accelerandi. The main tempo annotations are as follows:
Lento assai — Più lento — espressivo — Più lento — Un poco più di moto ma sempre lento — Recitativo — Più mosso — Presto — Lento — Sempre animando sin’ al fine
For the initial 8 bars, Liszt left instructions through a pupil’s notes, which demand that the espressivo theme in the left hand be “very strong and very accentuated”. Alexander Lonquich respected this. His left-hand theme was prominent and expressive, “talking” like a recitative / announcement, but not exaggerating. Fitting the artist’s motto for the program, falling lines, resignation, sadness / mourning prevails. In the subsequent sotto voce, the melody (now in the descant) responded gently like an angel’s voice. Just to mutate gradually into another, resignative descent into the bass.
The Più lento felt like a pondering and expressive reflection, earnest in the bass, dreamy memories in the responses in the descant. Profound, “freely floating” in the rubato. The second Più lento is slowing down, the flow appears to stop, break up into long pauses. Reflection, despair, resignation, depth, void. At the same time, the pianist kept growing tension and expectations during these pauses. The darkness of this first ending formed an exteme contrast to the dreamy, heavenly dolcissimo cantilena in the Un poco più di moto ma sempre lento segment: full of warmth, emotions. Other voices are joining in, growing into an intense dialog—and falling down into the darkness of the bass again.
Recitative — Climaxes
Liszt knew how to build up drama! Alexander Lonquich’s tremulating left hand formed dramatic waves. At the same time, the right hand shaped a highly expressive, urging recitative. Partly, it reminded me of the bass recitative in the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth. This here, however, was much longer, and far more dramatic. In a second wave (Più mosso), the left hand alternated between questioning exclamations in the descant, and firm, determined responses in the bass, in a dialog that gradually intensified and picked up momentum and intensity, up to the dramatic, exhaustive fff climax (quasi cadenza).
There is another, short cadenza at the end of the subsequent, exhausted recitative. The following Lento starts as a transfigured, serene melody, in rounded, warm sonority. The artist made this harmoniously grow into ascending, wide arpeggio chords, leading into the grandiose second climax. Freworks of sorts, splendid, but never mere show. Alexander Lonquich exploited the full sonority of the (exceptionally well-tuned) instrument, without ever exceeding its capacity. I never had the feeling of a performance that aimed at superficial virtuosity. The focus clearly was on expression, on the narration: impressive, for sure!
Ferruccio Busoni: Concert Interpretation of Schönberg’s Klavierstück op.11/2, BV B 97
Composer & Work
The Italian composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni (1866 – 1924) was also conductor, editor, writer, and teacher. Rather than for his over 300 original compositions, he is now known for his well over 100 transcriptions and arrangements for the piano. One of these is the Concert Interpretation of Klavierstück op.11/2 by Arnold Schönberg, BV B 97, which Busoni published 1909—the year in which Schönberg composed and published his original Drei Klavierstücke, op.11.
In his opening remarks, Alexander Lonquich included some anecdotal information on this Busoni’s adaptation: Apparently, Schönberg sent his newly composed pieces to Busoni, hoping that the famous pianist would take it up in his concert repertoire. Busoni, however, called the piece “not conveyable to audiences”. He therefore created his own adaptation (Konzertmäßige Interpretation, i.e., “Interpretation for concert performances”). Unable to refrain from feeling as composer-interpreter, he added various modifications. Schönberg disliked, even disowned the piece in this form.
Ferruccio Busoni added a brief foreword to his transcription. Maybe a little too flattery: a response to Schönberg’s criticism?
Diese Komposition fordert vom Spieler die verfeinerteste Anschlags- und Pedalkunst; einen intimen, improvisierten, "schwebenden", empfundenen Vortrag; ein liebevolles Sichversenken in seinen Inhalt, dessen Interpret—rein als Klaviersetzer—hiermit sein zu dürfen, sich zu künstlerischer Ehre rechnet.
The translation (with the help of the DeepL translator):
This composition demands from the player the most refined art of touch and pedal; an intimate, improvised, "floating", felt performance; a loving immersion in its content. Therefore, having the opportunity to be its interpreter—purely as a piano transcriber—is an artistic honor.
Ignoring the debate between the two composers: an interesting piano piece, too—for sure! And yes, there are remarkable differences, even though it’s the same material, clearly derived from the original also in the additions / expansions. I did not analyze the differences in detail, however, Busoni dramaticized the original, by expanding its tonal and dynamic scope. Overall, the piece now feels much more expressive, outgoing. And often harmonically more radical, more “abstract”.
Some of the added segments are distinctly Busonian. At times, it felt as if Busoni meant to push the piece towards dodecaphony—even though, of course, that wasn’t invented yet. The piece definitely appeared as Busoni’s interpretation, altered in the atmosphere—more Busoni than Schönberg. And it is far more than mere transcription—contrary to what Busoni wrote in his foreword!
Needless to say that Alexander Lonquich’s “interpretation of Busoni’s interpretation” was just as compelling as his approach to Schönbereg’s original. Highly interesting music, no doubt!
Robert Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze, op.6
Composer & Work
Robert Schumann’s “Davidsbündlertänze”, op.6 (Dances of the League of David), op.6, are much more than a sequence of 18 short pieces for piano. According to Wikipedia, it is one of Schumann’s most important compositions. Actually, it is considered an iconic piano composition of the entire romantic era. Despite the early opus number, it was actually written after the Carnaval, op.9, and after the Symphonic Studies, op.13.
The key to this composition is in the underlying poetic program. That describes the interaction between two contrasting character types: Eusebius is introverted, lyrical, poetic. Florestan, on the other hand, is impetuous, impulsive, extroverted. These two personalities are essentially Schumann’s own, complementary character traits. At the same time, the work as a whole is intimate, internalized. It gives insight into Robert Schumann’s inner self. And it is of course inspired by Schumann’s love for Clara Wieck (1819 – 1896), later to become his wife.
The first version of op.6 is from 1837 (published 1838). Each of the pieces not only bears a German tempo & character annotation, but also relates to to Eusebius (E.), to Florestan (F.), or to both (F.u.E.).
1850, Schumann revised his op.6 and published a second edition. In that version, he removed the references to Florestan and Eusebius. And he simplified the tempo annotations. He also removed the extended poetic annotations in the pieces 9 and 18.
The Structure of op.6
Here is a list of the pieces and their annotations in the first version:
- Lebhaft, Florestan and Eusebius;
- Innig, Eusebius;
(Con intimo sentimento)
- Etwas hahnbüchen, Florestan;
(Un poco impetuoso)
- Ungeduldig, Florestan;
- Einfach, Eusebius;
- Sehr rasch und in sich hinein, Florestan;
(Molto vivo, con intimo fervore)
- Nicht schnell mit äußerst starker Empfindung, Eusebius;
(Non presto profondamente espressivo)
- Frisch, Florestan;
- Hierauf schloss Florestan und es zuckte ihm schmerzlich um die Lippen
(Here, Florestan made an end, and his lips quivered painfully)
- Balladenmäßig sehr rasch, Florestan;
(Alla ballata, molto vivo)
- Einfach, Eusebius;
- Mit Humor, Florestan;
- Wild und lustig, Florestan and Eusebius;
(Selvaggio e gaio)
- Zart und singend, Eusebius;
(Dolce e cantando)
- Frisch, Florestan and Eusebius;
- Mit gutem Humor — Trio: Etwas langsamer —
(Con buon umore) — (Un poco più lento)
- Wie aus der Ferne, Florestan and Eusebius;
(Come da lontano)
- Ganz zum Überfluss meinte Eusebius noch Folgendes, dabei sprach aber viel Seligkeit aus seinen Augen.
(Quite superfluously Eusebius remarked the following, while great bliss spoke from his eyes)
This is my second review featuring Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze. I have copied the above description from my earlier review of a recital on 2016-11-15.
At Schumann’s time, pianos looked and sounded different from modern grands. They were smaller, featured a more slender sonority, lighter mechanics, and a sound that was richer in harmonics (brighter, lighter). In addition, the instruments at that time featured all-parallel strings. This led to more differentiation, with the sound colors changing across the keyboard (some people talk of “registers” even). Most modern instruments are fitted with crossed strings. They are optimized for bigger sound, and to minimize color changes across the tonal range.
Here, the instrument was a modern Steinway D-274 concert grand. The instrument and the fact that Alexander Lonquich placed Schumann’s op.6 at the end of his program were clear indications that in terms of interpretation and sonority, the artist did not intend to present a “period” performance.
Yes, in Alexander Lonquich’s hands, Schumann’s op.6 opened at a fluid pace, expressive, with big, dynamic arches, rather than moderate and intimate. This actually resulted in an adequate, affirmative transition from the Busoni transcription. The artist performed most sections attacca (or quasi attacca). Just prior to #10 there was a short pause of a few seconds.
Generally speaking, the Florestan segments / components exhibited the sonority that one might expect from a modern concert grand. Expressive, not necessarily loud, but still “pianistic”, “big Steinway sound”. This is not meant to be deprecative: the sonority alone was impressive, harmonious, rounded, supporting the big arches. I also admired Alexander Lonquich’s ability to retain structural clarity at all levels. Typical “Florestan examples”: #3 (including the ethereal ending!), #4 (impatient, urging), #6, #8 (excellent, these subtle ritenuti for sforzandi, when a motif / theme appears buried in the busy chordic pattern).
#9 fascinated not only through its sonority, but also in how in the second part Alexander Lonquich allowed the listener to follow the punctuated theme through all the voices & registers. In #10, the artist’s focus clearly was on full, rounded / rhapsodic grand piano sonority, rather than on clarity / transparency. One could say the same about #13—the Florestan parts only, of course. #12 was capricious, joking, if not sometimes even boisterous (as also #13). It somehow reminded me of C.P.E. Bach’s Fantasia in F♯ minor!
Typical “Eusebius examples”: #2, and #5 (excellent, forlorn, reflective). In #7 Schumann was experimenting with special sound effects through mutual resonances between strings while the keys or chords were kept pressed in one hand, or while the sustain pedal remained down. The interpretation not only spoke for the artist’s careful, diligent, and atmospheric playing, but also for the qualities of the instrument, and the excellent tuning. #11 exhibited outstanding dynamics & touch control, especially in the middle part. And later again in #14, with its wonderful, serene cantilena. The Eusebius parts in #13—middle section and ending (the coda is a synthesis of the two characters)—were truly beautiful: intimate, melodious, atmospheric!
#15, #16 and #17 are again pieces featuring both characters, Florestan and Eusebius. In line with my previous findings, the middle (Eusebius) part in #15 felt marvelously lyrical, atmospheric, performed with diligent touch / dynamic control: pianistic excellence! One could say the same about the humorous #16 with it’s joking syncopes in the “Scherzo” (Florestan) part. The Trio isn’t purely Eusebius, but an eloquent dialog between the two characters. #17, on the other hand, is all Eusebius in the first part: intimate, atmospheric, intensely lyrical—utmost, loving beauty! Florestan only makes his brief, final appearance in the coda. This does feel like a brief, affirmative conclusion, if it weren’t for Eusebius’ dreamy epilogue: intimate, atmospheric, and touching.
An excellent, compelling interpretation, overall. I personally tended to favor the lyrical, intimate and atmospheric Eusebius parts over the Florestan aspects. Was the artist’s view of the lyrical parts more in line with my expectations, or did the Steinway grand fare better in cantilenas and gentle legato sonorities?
Encore — Chopin: Impromptu No.2 in F♯ major, op.36, B.129, CT 44
Composer & Work
Frédéric Chopin (1810 – 1849) composed four Impromptus. Only three of these (opp.29, 36, and 51) were published during the composer’s lifetime. The last one, the Fantaisie-Impromptu in C♯ minor, op.posth.66 was published in 1855 only.
As encore, Alexander Lonquich selected the Impromptu No.2 in F♯ major, op.36, B.129, CT 44. This is a composition from 1839 (published 1840).
Beautiful in the calm, gently swaying pace, the harmonious, full, warm and rounded sonority (big in the ff climax!). Pianistically excellent in the virtuosic demisemiquaver runs in the leggiero section. A marvelous closure to a well-laid out recital program—not just because of the affirmative ff ending, but also because it appeared to relate back to Liszt’s “Vallée d’Obermann“.
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