Finding Denes Varjon

Have you been to a concert somewhere in the world recently? Share your thoughts with us about the performance, the more details the better!

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Ricordanza
Posts: 1632
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Finding Denes Varjon

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Feb 13, 2016 7:42 am

This season, it’s been a pleasure hearing some familiar, well-established performers, such as violinist Gil Shaham and pianist Jeremy Denk. But it’s even a greater pleasure to encounter an unfamiliar name and discover a musician of the first rank. Such was the experience on Tuesday evening, February 9, at the recital by the Hungarian pianist, Dénes Várjon.

What led me to select this concert when I was making my choices for the season? Initially, it was my attraction to the program:

Haydn: Piano Sonata in E Minor, Hob. XVI:34
Schumann: Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17
Janáček: On an Overgrown Path
Chopin: Ballade No. 2 in F Major, Op. 38
Chopin: Mazurka in A Minor, Op. 67, No. 4
Chopin: Mazurka in C Major, Op. 24, No. 2
Chopin: Nocturne in B-Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 1
Chopin: Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 31

And though I had never heard of the pianist, after many years of attending the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert series, I had come to trust their judgment that they had good reason to include Várjon as part of their piano recital series.
Várjon made an immediate impression with his crisp and energetic rendition of the Haydn sonata. But his performance of the next piece cemented that positive impression and demonstrated that this was a pianist of the highest caliber.

The Schumann Fantasy is one of the handful of defining piano works of the Romantic era, and a personal favorite of mine. Each of the three movements has its distinctive attraction, from the yearning and passion of the first movement, to the relentless drive of the second movement, to the unearthly, almost unbearable beauty of the concluding movement. It is a supreme test for the performer, and Várjon more than met those technical demands. But he was also able to find that elusive balance between emphasizing details through subtle changes in dynamics and rhythm, and, on the other hand, maintaining the grand sweep and momentum of this work.

After intermission, Várjon turned down the intensity level a bit with six pieces selected from Leos Janáček’s On an Overgrown Path. I vaguely recall hearing these pieces performed in a recital many years ago, but it was a good experience to hear Várjon’s distinctive rendition of these rather introspective works.

But just in case anyone had forgotten Várjon’s virtuosic gifts, his Chopin set was bracketed with two formidable showpieces, the second Ballade and the second Scherzo. The entire set was performed with the requisite ingredients of elegance and dramatic flair.

So thank you, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, for including Várjon in the piano series. Good choice.

Ricordanza
Posts: 1632
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 4:58 am
Location: Southern New Jersey, USA

Re: Finding Denes Varjon

Post by Ricordanza » Fri Feb 19, 2016 8:53 pm

According to this review in the New York Times, Varjon's Zankel Hall recital was "sparsely attended." Why was that? I can only surmise that not enough CMG members in NYC read my report on his Philadelphia recital, where he presented the same program. :)

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/arts/ ... .html?_r=0

The lesson is: be sure to hear this outstanding pianist when he comes to your neck of the woods.

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