Friday, 3 December 2010

CHOPIN Piano Recital / Boris Kraljevic / Review

NAFA Lee Foundation Theatre
Wednesday (1 November 2010)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 3 December 2010.

The piano music of Frédéric Chopin is universally loved, and its accessibility is enhanced by the fact that much of it may be appreciated and accomplished by young hands and minds. This is the basis of Chopin competitions where mere ten-year-olds can shine in some Mazurkas, Waltzes and even Études. Eight children under the age of 12 thus performed admirably in a prizewinner’s concert at the First International Chopin Competition Singapore.

The main event was the all-Chopin recital by Montenegrin pianist Boris Kraljevic, no stranger here as he is on the piano faculty at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. Beginning with the Berceuse (Op.57), he weaved a fine web of filigree on the right hand over the left hand’s steady rocking rhythm. Finesse and control was the key to its success.

The colours darkened considerably to the C sharp minor Nocturne (Op.27 No.1) where murky mysteries of the night were pondered and probed, building up to a transient luminescence in the major key. For the E major Nocturne (Op.62 No.2), his broad tempo allowed its noble main theme to gloriously unfold before picking up speed for contrasting effect.
The four Ballades rank among Chopin’s greatest essays. Influenced more by literary than musical sources, its takes a master storyteller among pianists to do them justice. Kraljevic possesses both the power and sensitivity, besides having a master’s overarching view to these disparate works.

Chopin’s enormous emotional range was encompassed in the First Ballade in G minor (Op.23), from pensive melancholy to febrile ecstasy in its turbulent pages. Hitherto unnoticed inner voices were highlighted while no worthy detail left unturned. The Second Ballade in F major (Op.38) juxtaposed its serene opening sicilienne with precipitous violence, perhaps a nod to its dedicatee Schumann’s impending schizophrenia.

The pacing and phrasing for the “easier” Third Ballade in A flat major (Op.47) were excellent, transporting the music from simplicity to rousing climax in a single sweep. For the final and longest Fourth Ballade in F minor (Op.52), Kraljevic’s elaborating of the Slavic main theme was a perfection of Chopin’s art of incremental narrative.

The fearsome coda, as with the earlier Ballades, was taken with no punches pulled and safety last. A few mishits were inevitable but unbridled passion is the requisite of genuine unadulterated Chopin. Chopin’s blood runs deep within his veins.

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