STORIES OF THE NIGHT
ROGER MURARO Piano Recital
The Arts House
Monday (10 May 2010)
This review was published in The Straits Times on 13 May 2010.
The Chamber at Old Parliament House seems like a most natural venue to hold a concert. Battleground for decades of Parliamentary debates, sparring of a different kind takes place within its four walls these days, none more exhausting and captivating as the recital by French pianist Roger Muraro.
Frédéric Chopin was a no-brainer for inclusion. The lanky and elegant Muraro projected an intimate tonal palette well, balancing legato lines in the B Flat Minor Nocturne (Op.9 No.1) with a smouldering disquiet beneath the surface. In the Third Ballade, his keen sense of poetry soon built up to an impassioned climax, a consummation of clarity of expression and rhythmic flair.
In the showpiece Andante Spianato & Grande Polonaise Brillante, nocturne-like serenity made way for a heady romp in which Chopin’s tricky filigreed lines never threatened to unhinge the music’s rhythmic pulse. Every facet of Chopin’s artistry was well captured by Muraro in these three varied pieces.
For the second half, the Franz Liszt’s monstrous transcription of Hector Berlioz’s 45-minute long Symphonie Fantastique, in its Singapore premiere, remained a curiosity. Performing its 5 movements is a challenging but thankless task, the musical equivalent of scaling the North Face of the Eiger. While Liszt attempted to recreate its grandeur and audacity, there was no way that the piano could reproduce its orchestral textures.
Muraro manfully coped with its fiendish passages and finicky details, but was not helped by a clattery and unsubtle Steinway grand. There was a great sweep to the febrile opening Reveries, Passions movement and A Ball, which uncannily foretold the cataclysm of Ravel’s La Valse. Despite his efforts, the Scene in the Fields was as dull as dishwater. No plaintive oboe or cor anglais for the shepherd’s duet, only a monochrome piano.
However the tub-thumping March to the Scaffold saw intensity picking up and the final movements emerged as a tour de force of virtuoso playing. The descent into Hades and the Witches Sabbath was a hell-for-leather ride where Muraro’s heroics on the beastly instrument resembled Hercules battling the Hydra. We all know who won that one.