Saturday 20 June 2009

Aldeburgh 2009: Stefanovich plays Haydn, Bartok, Carter and Schumann

My third concert at this year's festival took place in a third venue (indeed in a third village/town), which is all part of the fun: this afternoon it was the turn of Blythburgh church to host the festivities. Pianist Tamara Stefanovich, a former pupil of the festival's artistic director Pierre-Laurent Aimard, had selected an interesting programme.

Up first was Haydn and the A flat major sonata Hob.XVI:43. This was very nicely played indeed. She showed a lightness of touch and a clarity, not to mention a nice wit, which is always a good thing in Haydn. From our seats in row B we were afforded a perfect view of her finger-work: she might very well have been playing in our living room. She had a nicely unassuming manner on the stage as well.

Haydn was followed by Bartok and his 14 Bagatelles, op.6. These were stunning. A great work with a wonderful variety, and such concentration to each miniature, whether it was the wonderful shimmering effect in the third, the powerful romanticism, nicely subverted as it went on, in the fourth, the frantic seventh, the weighty virtuosity of the tenth, its opening notes almost like the peeling of bells, or the sombre thirteenth. Stefanovich's playing was a tour de force. Clearly a work to investigate more fully (suggestions for recordings are most welcome in the comments).

After the interval came more from Elliott Carter (whose work has been receiving a celebration at this year's festival). First up was Matribute, a very brief work that didn't seem to say terribly much. This was followed by the two movement Thoughts About the Piano. It was a more interesting and compelling work, especially the breakneck second movement Catenaires (so much so that it was no mean feat for Stefanovich to turn the pages herself). However, despite the virtuosic display it felt unsatisfying, perhaps because there didn't seem to be much more to it than that.

The final work of the afternoon was Schumann's Kreisleriana. Her playing was nicely poetic and beautifully delicate in the quieter passages, yet with plenty of fireworks when called for. It made a fine close to an enjoyable recital.

Stefanovich herself is an engaging soloist and certainly one to watch for in the future.

Updated 21/6/09

In the process of writing my review of Knussen's concert later the same evening, I had occasion to glance back at this review of a concert last year featuring Imogen Cooper. It had slipped my mind, but she played the Bartok Bagatelles then. It is possible they were slightly different versions as last year's programme indicates a revision a year later than this year's (and numbers them sz.50 as opposed op.6). Owing to time constraints in last year's programme, numbers seven to nine were omitted. This concert only goes to underscore how mistaken that decision was.

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