I used mostly my ears

a blog about music by Marc Haegeman


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Chopin on speed

Wolfgang Mozart: Piano Sonata #9 in D Major, KV 311
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata #8 in C minor “Pathétique”, Op. 13
Frédéric Chopin:
Nocturne in A Flat Major, Op. 32 #2
2 Polonaises, Op. 40
3 Mazurkas, Op. 63
Scherzo #3 in C Flat minor, Op. 39

Rafał Blechacz, piano
Brussels Center for Fine Arts 2 June 2014

Rafał Blechacz (© Felix Broede / DG)

Rafał Blechacz (© Felix Broede / DG)

The solo recitals of the Polish pianist Rafał Blechacz (now age 28) haven’t changed much in content in the last four or five years. Not necessarily a bad thing, of course, as this could be a sign of continuous self-examination or a search for perfection. And yet a recent performance in Brussels of this year’s Gilmore Artist Award recipient with a Mozart/Beethoven/Chopin program brought a fair amount of frustration. Blechacz’s well-known energetic determination, his joy of making music, his blazing technique, as well as his charmingly old-style appearance (including long-tailed tuxedo), were still there to enjoy. But the evening was also marred by some ineffective attempts to channel his musical ideas. Overblown dynamic contrasts and rushed tempos (which have always been on the fast side anyhow, albeit never as relentless as now) could still pass, but more worrying was the lack of a distinctive sonority.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Lunch with Khatia Buniatishvili

Frédéric Chopin: Piano Sonata #2 in B Flat minor, Op. 35
Scherzo #2 in B Flat minor, Op. 31
Scherzo #3 in C Sharp minor, Op. 39
Maurice Ravel: La Valse

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
London, Wigmore Hall, 11 February 2013

The weekly BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime concerts at London’s Wigmore Hall feature much-loved international artists and young, up-and-coming performers from the BBC New Generations scheme. The many portraits decorating the Green Room at Wigmore remind us that practically all the great soloists in the business have performed here at some point in their career. Yet lunch with Khatia Buniatishvili is not an easy thing. The program proposed by the Georgian pianist on February 11 for a sold-out Wigmore was anything but a rush lunch at your nearest fast-food joint. For its mere 60 minutes it was quite a copious meal, food for thought as it were, taking a while to digest but eventually paying off. In fact, with playing this focused, relentlessly intense and passionate, insightful and quite stunningly virtuosic to boast, it was sheer delight.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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She came, she played, and she conquered

Franz Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor
Frédéric Chopin: Ballade #4, Piano Sonata #2
Serge Prokofieff: Piano Sonata #7

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Paris, Salle Pleyel, 19 November 2012

Since I first attended a solo recital by Khatia Buniatishvili in the smallish auditorium of the Cité de la Musique in Paris, hardly ten months ago, things have been going fast for the 25-year old Georgian pianist. Meanwhile she released her second solo CD (Sony 97129), media attention has soared, she was awarded the German “Echo Klassik” prize for most promising artist, and above all she has been touring extensively throughout Europe, and also recently San Francisco and Japan – either as soloist, with orchestras or as member of chamber music formations joining distinguished colleagues like Gidon Kremer, Truls Mørk and Renaud Capuçon. Buniatishvili had played Pleyel before in a concert with the Orchestre de Paris. But until now the big hurdle of a solo recital in the most prestigious concert venue in the French capital – which is currently her hometown – still needed to be taken. On 19 November it was taken, and how.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Youthful Impetuosity and Poetic Sensitivity

Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita #3 in A minor, BWV 827
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata #7 in D Major, Op. 10/3
Frédéric Chopin: Ballade #1 in G minor, Op. 23; 2 Polonaises, Op. 26
Karol Szymanowski: Piano Sonata #1 in C minor, Op. 8

Rafał Blechacz, piano
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, March 14, 2012

Coinciding with the international release of his Debussy-Szymanowski CD reviewed here, I caught the young Polish pianist and 2005 Warsaw Competition winner Rafał Blechacz in a solo recital in Brussels. The culminating point of the evening was without doubt his performance of the 1st Piano Sonata by Karol Szymanowski, which sounded even more impressive live than on disc. Blechacz has long been championing the music of his little-performed compatriot and here again he gave the kind of revelatory rendition to win anybody over to Szymanowski. Judging by the enthusiastic audience reaction, Blechacz made his point. But then again before arriving there, he had treated us to some stunning pianism, sufficient to win all present over… to Rafał Blechacz.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Buniatishvili in Paris

Franz Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor, Mephisto Waltz #1
Frédéric Chopin: Scherzi #1, 2 & 3
Igor Stravinsky: Three Movements from Petrushka

Khatia Buniatishvili, piano
Paris, Cité de la Musique, 5 January 2012

While most pianists would conclude their recital with the Sonata from Franz Liszt, Khatia Buniatishvili, at the Cité de la Musique in Paris, choose to open with it. She is a fearless performer. Focused and intense – this mysterious sotto voce opening seems even more daunting when it has to form the first sound to resonate in the hall – she is sure to grab your attention from the very first bars and never really let go. You may first notice the speed, the vehemence, the electrifying energy, the occasional risk-taking, too, but pretty soon she also wins you over with her thorough control of sound and color (in spite of a none too flattering instrument provided by the Cité de la Musique), her unerring ability to really nail the key notes during the hardest passages, her dramatic presentation and the utterly romantic sweep that kicks Liszt back to life. In any case, Khatia Buniatishvili doesn’t take any prisoners, but I guess most in the audience would have been willing to give their lives. She possesses the freedom to shape this music at will, yet the good news is she has a clear idea of how to use that freedom and while she may occasionally throw in a few flashes to reinforce the message, musicality prevails over empty rhetoric and circus display.
Read the full review on Classical Net


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Lang Lang in Brussels

Franz Liszt: Piano Concerto #1 in E Flat Major
Frédéric Chopin: Andante spianato & Grande Polonaise brillante, Op. 22
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony #3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55, ‘Eroica’

Lang Lang, piano
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Daniel Harding
Brussels, Centre for Fine Arts, 4 October 2011

Any way you cut it, a concert headlining the Chinese star pianist Lang Lang is an event. He brings so many new people to classical music, as we are recalled. His flamboyant approach has been dividing opinions from the start, but recently hopeful signs of maturity were reported too. And didn’t the man himself declare in a pre-performance interview that it is not just a show? Has the showman grown into a musician then? He might have fooled you still, when he walked in a perfectly traditional outfit to his piano, greeted by a packed Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. Yet as soon as he hammered home the opening chords of Liszt’s 1st piano concerto in such an attention-seeking manner, there no longer was any doubt. A sigh of grateful recognition swept through the hall and obviously many had come to witness this: Lang Lang was still his former self – at least for tonight.
Read the full review on Classical Net