Monday, 1 February 2010

BORIS KRALJEVIC Piano Recital / Review

NAFA Auditorium
Monday (1 February 2010)

The late piano works of Johannes Brahms are a world apart from his earliest efforts, the big bluster and bombast of the Sonatas (Op.1, 2 & 5) giving way to the intimate miniatures of his Intermezzos, Fantasias and assorted pieces (Op.117-119). These represent the culmination and autumn of a musical life well lived, and probe the depths of his soul and psyche.

Montenegrin pianist Boris Kraljevic, a faculty member of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, played the 13 pieces from sets Op.117 through 119. Possessing a multi-faceted technique and capabilities, he went into the heart of the music. Rarely has this music been so well thought out and magnificently realised.

The art of cantabile, married with smouldering disquiet and a gift for teasing out a melody through thickets of harmony distinguished the Three Intermezzos Op.117. Braving a massive traffic jam through the length of Bukit Timah Road, we arrived late but in time to hear the first set performed through a surprisingly acceptable sound system (and see Kraljevic on TV) in the foyer. Even that was convincingly enough proof of this musician’s prowess.

Sitting in the concert hall lent a further dimension to the experience. Kraljevic’s bear-like stature lends heft and weight to his playing, and he can definitely project. The Op.118 set began loud and passionate, but soon descended into the inner sanctum with the great A major Intermezzo (Op.118 No.2) He paced it very deliberately, but there was method to this approach, as it made the song-like middle section ever more a thing of beauty. The G minor Ballade (Op.118 No.3) had power and drive, and its central melody shone through like a beacon.

The E flat minor Intermezzo (Op.118 No.6), with its deep and dark thoughts, is the crowning glory of the Opus. Kraljevic ruminated like some ancient philosopher, before delivering the triumphant verdict, affirmative like the rise of several blazing suns before subsiding into terminal repose.

The Op.119 tetralogy is arguably the most varied of the three sets performed. Has there been a more dissonant or modern utterance by Brahms than the opening Intermezzo (Op.119 No.1)? Foretelling the coming of Schoenberg (who was in his late teens in 1893 when this was written), this chilling number was eloquently delivered, contrasted with the restless agitation of No.2, which had yet another beguiling middle-section melody derived from the earlier flutterings.
The jocular No.3 received the most pronounced of rubatos, which threatened to pull it out of shape, but the attempt to humour was duly noted. The final Rhapsody in E flat major got the energy and momentum it deserved, and few could deliver it with such trenchancy, closing the recital on a invigorating high.

Kraljevic performed three varied and well-received encores: Prokofiev’s Morning Scene (The Street Awakens) from Romeo and Juliet, Rachmaninov’s meditative Moment Musicaux No.4 (from Op.16) and Bach’s C major Prelude (Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1). Few would disagree that one had just witnessed an hour and more of true artistry.

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