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HomeOperaVikingur Ólafsson’s fulfilling recital of music by Philip Glass and Edmund Finnis...

Vikingur Ólafsson’s fulfilling recital of music by Philip Glass and Edmund Finnis – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Glass, Finnis: Vikingur Ólafsson (piano). Purcell Room, 24.9.2022. (MB)

Vikingur Ólafsson on the Purcell Room

Glass – Opening from Glassworks; Etudes Nos. 9,2,3,5,6 and 20

Edmund Finnis – Mirror Pictures

Music is typically related solely with a reminiscence, and so it’s with Philip Glass’s Etudes. Over time I’ve thought there was one thing Shakespearean concerning the composer’s performances of them – of Glass as a sort of King Lear determine enjoying on the piano. If this implies a vulnerability, then overlook it. He typically performs these items sooner and with extra vitality than anybody else. The Lear analogy has extra to do with Glass being a drive of nature. This gave the impression to be the case once I heard him play them in Paris.

This doesn’t have a lot to do with Vikingur Ólafsson’s Purcell Room recital – though this, somewhat like Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s journey by way of Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke just a few years in the past, additionally left one thing of an impression afterwards. Some twentieth-century piano music is, in my opinion, each bit as nice as that written within the nineteenth century – Shostakovich, Bartók, Stockhausen, Boulez, Cage. And Philip Glass’s Etudes.

These items are in contrast to these by Chopin in that the Glass ones are extra endlessly open to variables in interpretation, not least within the velocity during which pianists take them. That is particularly the case with Etude No.20, which is very ambivalent in which means, a piece that nearly stands exterior its nineteen earlier ones – a lot in order that even the composer struggles to grasp each its place within the sequence and its which means. Etude No.6 is one other – Ólafsson talked about throughout his opening remarks (he’s a witty and sage-like speaker, by the best way, with a heat that appears at odds along with his icy appears) that Glass thought he didn’t deliver sufficient depth or pathos to it. It’s definitely one of many darkest of the cycle though when Glass asks his pianist to search for solutions on this work, he all of the sudden cuts off the piece with brutal excision.

One might argue that the small choice that Ólafsson selected to play have been weighted in direction of the primary e book of Etudes – that’s, the primary ten of them, all written in 1994. These are typically the extra technically primarily based, those which don’t all the time look too far past the black and white keys of the instrument Glass wrote for. In reality, this didn’t really feel true of No.6 in any respect. Allowing for Ólafsson’s ideas on what Glass mentioned, the efficiency sounded very bleak, octaves have been heavy (however not heavy-handed). It had a weight which nearly advised Brahms. With Ólafsson you don’t actually spend money on clock time; it’s extra a case of permitting your self to overlook about minutes and seconds altogether. No.6 felt neither lengthy nor brief – it simply felt proper.

No.9 was, I feel extra elastic than on his DG recording – a mix of the meditation and mellowness with that electrical energy that fired up a speedier tempo. No.2 swept in like crashing waves, the equilibrium swinging the pendulum in direction of dreamy repetition. Ólafsson constructed this piece up till what we had regarded just like the veneer of a e book with coarse-trimmed leaves, simply barely tough on the floor. He performed No.3 with an expressive urgency, No.5 with a large tonal vary and deftness of color because the left and proper arms travelled in separate instructions.

Vikingur Ólafsson on the Purcell Room

Widespread to his enjoying of the entire Etudes, was light, slow-rising pedalling that’s so delicate. The keyboard had exceptional readability and there was no ebbing of the sound, no be aware that had an echo after it.

Edmund Finnis’s Mirror Pictures, premiered at this efficiency, was the longest work on this system and sat bang in the course of it. It’s not a chunk that sounded misplaced beside the Glass works and its 9 sections, break up between a quarter-of-an-hour working time, not often collided with one another. One of many causes Glass’s music is comparatively straightforward to concentrate on is as a result of there’s a point of interest a listener can consider or not less than gravitate in direction of. With Finnis’s work this wasn’t the case and one’s consideration typically wandered and strayed. Though Mirror Pictures does have shifting tempos and it does have patterns, they aren’t as properly assimilated into the work’s lengthy (or so it felt) working time. Ólafsson clearly appreciated the piece – his focus was impressively confident; he was capable of maintain the lengthy traces of musical sameness that thread by way of the work and he introduced sufficient tonal color to it to make the shimmering reflections of the rating have motion somewhat than simply stay static. I’m afraid I didn’t fairly really feel the identical about it.

The 2 works that bookended the recital – Opening, from Glassworks, and Etude No.20 – are each in their very own methods enigmatic items. This was, I feel, the slowest efficiency of Opening I’ve come throughout from Ólafsson. If my watch was appropriate it took him virtually ten-minutes to play it which is longer than on his DG recording, and significantly longer than a efficiency he’s identified to have given the place he took simply 5 minutes. It’s fairly uncommon for a chunk to work with this type of tempo flexibility – do that with the Zoltán Kocsis transcription of Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde and you’ll be in actual hassle. It was, nonetheless, an outstanding efficiency. Great left- and right-hand interlacing, which gave the music a superbly rolling and cresting feeling. I feel the extra deliberate tempo made the suspension of chords simply barely extra riveting – the stress extra elastic and bending. The rating is nearly utterly missing in dynamic markings and but Ólafsson made it sound evocative and magical. This could get misplaced in sooner performances the place interpretations tackle a distinct which means; right here Ólafsson set a pattern that will be nearer to the Etudes.

And that final Etude, the twentieth, if it by no means solved any of the mysteries behind its composition, then he was by no means detached in direction of giving a charismatic efficiency of it. Technically, as with all the pieces on this recital, his enjoying was faultless. So beautiful was the sound from the piano, too. Glass maybe must sound this crystalline and pure and it definitely did right here.

Vikingur Ólafsson talked about throughout his little intros that he hadn’t performed the Glass works for a number of years. Time makes a distinction – and he has grown into them, and I feel he has re-worked his pondering on a few of the Etudes. However that is music that’s largely freed from the composer’s intervention – Glass not often tells the pianist what he ought to do. It permits very a lot for unique efficiency and the discography for these works is a really distinctive one. This was the primary of two recitals that Ólafsson was giving the identical night; fairly presumably the second would have been totally different in sure respects.

An fulfilling recital.

Marc Bridle

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