Classical review: Jonathan Biss's piano recital

All said and played, Schumann, at the program’s end, was the recital’s consolation prize.

November 19, 2017 21:28
1 minute read.
A piano

A piano. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)

The most recent work in the recital of pianist Jonathan Biss, a guest of the Jerusalem Music Center Mishkenot Sha’ananim, was American composer Leon Kirchner’s Interlude II.

Even though it is a contemporary piece, it sounds conservative, listener-friendly, without harsh dissonances, indeed almost Romantic.

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It appeared as though Schumann’s Fantasie Op. 17 was closest to the pianist’s heart and sensibilities. The composer’s characteristic nervosity and tortured soul, as well as his moving lyricism, were conveyed with persuasive sensibility and intensity.

This is more than can be said about the preceding sonatas by Mozart, K. 310, and Beethoven, Op. 131/2 (Tempest). These were performed with sportsmanlike speed, as though competing with an invisible contestant to arrive first, ignoring Mozart’s prescription “Allegro maestoso” and storming ahead with an unmajestic prestissimo. Phrases flowed into each other without articulation or even a split-second breathing space.

In Mozart’s sonata, Viennese elegance was conspicuous by its absence. So was the melodiousness, in passages by this composer famous also for his arias and songs.

Beethovenian energies were appropriately expressed, but the recurring backbone motif of the fast last movement remained indiscernible.

All said and played, Schumann, at the program’s end, was the recital’s consolation prize.

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