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Critic’s Notebook: Anderszewski Recital, Musikverein

Also reviewed for Die Presse: Piotr Anderszewski: Chopin-Mazurkas verwandeln sich bei ihm in Muränen

A Masterclass in Relaxation and Rubato: Piotr Anderszewski at the Musikverein

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K.Szymanowski, B.Bartók, L.Janáček,
Mazurkas Op. 50, 14 Bagatelles etc.
Piotr Anderszewski

Piotr Anderszweski was only the replacement, at his piano recital at Vienna’s Musikverein: Maria João Pires had been scheduled to perform but had to cancel. Not a shabby replacement. Few patrons in the well-filled Golden Hall could have complained beforehand; fewer still afterwards. For one, it’s nice that he isn’t a piano-bench dancer, who tries to tell you with his contortions how you are supposed to feel about the music, rather than making you feel that way through how he plays. He’s got a steady hand at the wheel, and wields a (surprisingly) wild rubato with it, which turned the three Chopin Mazurkas op.59 into relaxed Nocturnes that would, every so often, suddenly, rear their head, and shoot forward like a moray eel aiming for the unsuspecting diver’s naked toe. At those moments, when, after stealing so much time in some places, he had to give it all back at the end of a phrase, the notes became pushed together to the point of cluster chords. Five (out of 20) of Szymanowski’s Mazurkas op.50 varied between relaxed and disembodied, almost indifferent on the one hand (metaphorically, not literally), and lively and besotted with tonal color on the other.

Bartók’s 14 Bagatelles, op.6, are little character pieces that come in all shapes and colors, with cathedral-like grandness one second, prickly little will-o’-the-wisps the next, tickling the ears, turning in the wind this way, then that, and adding a share of lovelorn bitterness. Anderszewski made them come alive, just moving his fingers, entirely unfazed. Where the opening E minor Bach Partita BWV 830 had been so flexible, it had into something intriguing yet almost worryingly romantic, the concluding B major Partita BWV 825, was exalted and sublime, with a steady pulse and forward momentum, very lively (Courante), then exuding celestial peace (Sarabande), a tinkling of bells (Menuet), and dashing, compelling in the concluding Gigue. Bach and Bartók as encores, too, and especially the latter’s Three Hungarian Folk Songs from Csík shone in coy, playful light, sounded almost like Mompou.

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