Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Living with... ALBERT LIN / Piano Recital / Review

Living with... ALBERT LIN Piano Recital
The Living Room, The Arts House
Monday (17 August 2009)

For decades, composers have been trying to unify the disparate genres and sounds of classical music and jazz in a coherent and intelligent manner. The results are variable, but one of the most convincing is the Ukrainian pianist and jazz bandleader Nikolai Kapustin (born 1937), whose treacherously tricky piano works are gradually being discovered by mainstream classical artists.

One half of pianist Albert Lin’s hour-long classical jazz recital was devoted to Kapustin (left), beginning with his “simple” Sonatina (Op.100), an ideal primer in this crossover idiom. The sonata form is replicated in miniature, complete with exposition repeat, development and recapitulation. Four Préludes (from Op.53) followed, each reliving different popular styles; stride, boogie woogie, the blues and an updated sarabande (a slow Baroque dance).

The major work was Variations (Op.41). Based on the opening bassoon solo from Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite Of Spring, the theme so cleverly disguised as to elude even the most acute of theme-spotters. These are full written-out scores, where nothing is improvised, but Lin’s easy, spontaneous and totally natural takes seemed to suggest otherwise.

The Catalan composer Federico Mompou’s Cancion y Danza No.7 (Song and Dance) was not at all jazzy, but its disarming harmonies piqued the ears. While American William Bolcom’s popular Graceful Ghost Rag represented a sophisticated advancement on Scott Joplin’s rag standards, Earl Wild’s paraphrasing of Gershwin brought the art of transcription to new highs.

His oh-so-naughty dissonances, trademark filigree and free-wheeling virtuosity in songs like Somebody Loves Me, Embraceable You and Fascinatin’ Rhythm were a complete joy, and equaled by Lin’s rapier reflexes and lightning touches.

The encores were pure tongue-in-cheek. Whoever thought that Harold Arlen’s Over The Rainbow could be cooked with slivers of Rachmaninov sonatas and concertos? Apparently Jonathan Mann’s uproarious conflation thought so, and Marc-André Hamelin’s (left) Ringtone Waltz – formerly known as Irritation Waltz after Nokia (yes, that ringtone) – brought out the giggles. Lin’s next recital will be keenly awaited.

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