Thursday, 9 February 2012

LORI KAUFMAN Piano Recital / Review

LORI KAUFMAN Piano Recital
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concert Hall
Tuesday (7 February 2012)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 9 February 2012 with the title "An emotional look back for Kaufman".

Rückblick is a German work that literally means a “backward look”, or to view something in retrospect. It could be one looking back in anger, but more often yearning and regret are the emotions. Rückblick could also have been the title of the recital by American pianist Lori Kaufman, now residing in Singapore.

The progress of classical music has been a series of retrospections, forging ahead with innovations yet with roots dug deeply into the past. Mozart’s Sonata in C major (K.330) began her programme, displaying an extroverted streak, unafraid to ring out aloud with spirit and clarity.

After overcoming an unfortunate lapse in the slow movement, the tolling F minor central section was tinged with sadness, providing the first contrast in mood. When it reappeared briefly in the major key at the end, the effect of transformation was magical.

In Schubert’s Allegretto in C minor, Kaufman probed into the private and desolate world of his Lieder. Time stood still for moments of stark beauty, before she headed uninterrupted into a set of Schubert Waltzes, itty-bitty pieces of understated charm. If some sounded familiar, that was because Franz Liszt had co-opted these into his Soirees de Vienne, a classic case of looking back in wonder.

Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales followed, clearly a tribute to Schubert, which viewed the Viennese dance form through a distorting prism. Kaufman luxuriated in their naughty dissonances and teasing harmonies, with the heady Seventh Waltz glancing ahead to the decadence of La Valse. The final waltz itself gathered fragments of preceding waltzes with the longing of valued keepsakes.

The final work was Brahms’s mighty Third Sonata in F minor (Op.5). Kaufman’s Amazonian technique and seemingly limitless drive surmounted its massive chords and octaves with relative ease. The unsettling rhythm of Beethoven’s Fate motif from the Fifth Symphony was recalled, albeit as a shadowy presence. There was lots of tenderness besides, as the slow movement’s serene Lied was wonderfully shaded, building up to a tumultuous climax.

An irresistibly boisterous waltz served as the Scherzo, then came the brief Intermezzo which Brahms had also titled Rückblick. The Lied theme returned but now as sounding mournful, punctuated by the ever sinister Fate motif. Summoning all her reserves and extra gulps of mineral water, she closed the final movement with an exuberant rush of adrenaline, never mind the occasional missed notes. Aided by Kaufman’s own personable programme notes, here was ambitious effort well worth reliving all over again.

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