Christian Zacharias - expecting the unexpected

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Ricordanza
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Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Christian Zacharias - expecting the unexpected

Post by Ricordanza » Sun Feb 16, 2014 8:52 pm

Having heard Christian Zacharias twice before in recital, I have learned to expect the unexpected. I know that he is an individualist, but it’s impossible to tell in advance which pieces will emerge with memorable originality, and which will just seem odd. But the positives predominated in the previous two recitals, so I was eager to hear him again on Wednesday evening, February 12.

The recital was bracketed by two early-period Beethoven sonatas, Op. 26, in A-flat Major, and Op. 14, No. 1, in G Major. Each of these sonatas has a touch of unconventionality in its structure: the A-flat Major uses a theme and variations for the first movement, and a funeral march “dedicated to the death of a hero” for the third movement; in the G Major, a Scherzo is the final movement. Apart from these structural oddities, both sonatas have their fair share of Beethoven musical surprises, and Zacharias is the ideal pianist to present these surprises to the audience.

After the first of the Beethoven sonatas, Zacharias offered Schubert’s Six Moments Musicaux, D. 780. The most well-known of the set, the third, in F Minor, was a particular delight, but all of these pieces were thoughtfully and persuasively presented.

After intermission, Zacharias performed one of the best known and best liked piano works by Schumann, Kreisleriana. This is a set of eight pieces, inspired by a literary character from the books of E. T. A. Hoffmann, but having no specific program. They are widely varied, and brimming over with originality and inspiration.

To this listener, Zacharias’ performance was a mixed bag. The opening segment has a torrent of notes, but Zacharias’ playing seemed rushed and pounding, losing some of the detail of this piece. And although Schumann may have directed that the fourth and sixth segments are to be played sehr langsam (very slowly), the sixth in particular proceeded so slowly as to lose forward momentum altogether. But the playful fifth segment and the energetic conclusion came across in fine form. The audience responded warmly.

At this stage of his career, Zacharias focuses on his core repertoire and avoids the exuberant virtuosic display of other pianists. But it’s clear that he exhibits tremendous pianistic skills in all of his performances—the highest levels of precision, control, voicing and infinite dynamic shadings. When this is combined with the individuality he brings to each piece, the result—with an occasional detour--is a deeply satisfying musical experience.

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