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Adam Golka, pianist
Intelligence and Fingers:
Adam Golka in Recital
By Gary Lemco
YOUNG AMERICAN virtuoso Adam Golka made an appearance as part of the Harker Concert Series, Saturday, February 4, 2012 in Nichols Auditorium, San Jose, California. Gifted with digitally punctilious technique and a sanguine temperament, Golka graced us with an impressive array of repertory with plenty of notes to memorize: Beethoven’s F Major Sonata, Op. 10, No. 2 and his massive “Hammerklavier” Sonata, Op. 106; the 3 Intermezzi, Op. 117 of Brahms; and the Mephisto Waltz No. 1. Golka’s main pedagogical influence, by the way, has been Leon Fleisher.
A thoughtful and intellectual pianist, Golka opened with Beethoven’s relatively sunny F Major Sonata from his Op. 10 triptych, c. 1798. A curious mix of Haydn’s galant style and a singular dynamism Beethoven would cultivate, the first movement exhibited Golka’s hard patina, especially pungent with his Bechstein piano’s grand sonority. That the second movement Allegretto moved facilely between F Minor and D-flat became abundantly clear under Golka’s articulate filigree. The Presto last movement, a whirlwind moto perpetuo, danced most polyphonically in nice colors, if a bit metronomic.
The tendency of Golka to an “academic” outlook might limit his poetry—and this proved true in the monumental span his later Hammerklavier Adagio, which suffered some linear sag in tension—but the 1892 Intermezzi by Brahms enjoyed a sober melancholy that occasionally reminded this reviewer of the late John Browning, whose mantle Golka may someday wear. The E-flat Major lullaby evinced a simple grace, unadorned or cloyed in its pathos and directness of expression. The perennial B-flat Major epitomizes the Brahms “rainy-day melancholy” and autumnal color, an ode to spiritual resignation. Golka intoned the more passionate C-sharp Minor with a martial clarity, the piece redolent with a burnt-out, post-war sensibility. Golka demonstrated a fine sympathy to the Brahms style, one worth further development.
The Liszt Mephisto Waltz (c. 1859) after Lenau, unless mangled badly, never loses its hypnotic verve. Golka’s demeanor, while emanating something of the Josef Hofmann sang froid, managed to convey much of the “Dance at the Village Inn” motif at which Faust and Mephistopheles sojourn, the Devil quick to seize a rustic violin and inflame Faust and a local beauty to dance and consort most amorously. Golka imparted a grand leisure on the syncopated pace of the dance, the fleet filigree often suggestive of the Feux Follets Etude.
Beethoven’s Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major “Hammerklavier” (1818) presents daunting challenges to any performer, not the least of which is sheer stamina. Golka’s rendition lasted for the better part of an hour, expansive in every movement save the impetuously irreverent 2/4 Scherzo, which plays in parody elements from the opening Allegro. Golka declaimed the opening chords without preliminaries, moving intentionally fast to each successive movement and then slowing the pace so that the monumental Adagio sostenuto lingered long enough to have concluded the work, in the manner of the Bruckner Ninth. If the Adagio suffered sag and a sense of our having been lost in the labyrinth, the improvisatory character of the outer movements Golka retained in their intricate flights of fancy, the sequences of thirds reminiscent of the future E Minor Symphony of Brahms. Golka emphasized clear articulation of the polyphony in the Fuga, a study in counterpoint that simultaneously gives birth to Bach and Bartok. What Golka supplied in gray matter to this Gordian Knot of piano sonatas may have sacrificed some of its poetic fury, but the Promethean attempt proved nobly exhausting, quite evident in the young man’s spent demeanor, an acolyte suffering for his art.
Golka has already garnered prizes at Gilmore, Shanghai, and the American Pianists Association, and his recital promises much for his musical evolution. ♫
Dr. Gary R. Lemco contributes regularly to Classical Music Guide.
He resides in California.
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