Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Esplanade Recital Studio
Monday (19 August 2013)

Honestly, I had never heard of American pianist Daniel Glover before this recital. His name reminded me of the black dude who played Detective Sergeant Murtaugh opposite Mel Gibson in those Lethal Weapon movies. That’s one guy who packs a mean punch besides breaking into a wisecrack or two. However when I learnt that his recital included movements from Granados’s Goyescas and never-played-in-Singapore-before Wagner piano transcriptions, my interest was piqued. His recordings of Liszt, Spanish works and virtuoso Russian transcriptions on his own CD label DG2 were impressive enough, and so that warranted a Monday evening away from the family. 

The recital began with the Bach-Busoni Chaconne, and Glover certainly knows how to create an outsized organ-like sonority on the Steinway in the reverberant Esplanade Recital Studio. He has a good grasp of the work’s architecture, which built into a great arch-like edifice. I liked the way he brought out some hidden voices, mostly from the left hand. Although he wasn’t technically infallible, that did not seem like a big issue because the music simply flowed.

Next came two contrasting Chopin works. The lovely little Berceuse was very steady and sturdy; the left hand chords resounded bell-like, over which the right hand filigree was spun with much evenness. This was prelude to the Second Sonata in B flat minor (Op.35), a performance which had the requisite drama one could have hoped for. Again, Glover’s power and sound projection did not disappoint. He played the 1st movement repeat, and rightly included the opening Grave introduction. The sense of urgency and tragedy was well captured, continuing unabated into the rumbling Scherzo. The well-known Funeral March formed the work’s emotional core, its procession built to a mighty climax, contrasted with a cantabile central section in D flat major that provided a soothing balm. The brief and mysterious finale – uncannily described as wind over the graveyard – was a one-way journey to the abyss, bringing the work to a stunning close. For me, this represented the evening’s best moments, fully living up to the concert’s title.

After the intermission, Glover spoke at length about Granados and his unfortunate watery demise in 1916, after being torpedoed by the Germans (der schwein) with American gold bullion weighing down his jacket. He played the Second Book of Goyescas, which comprised the Balada (Love and Death) and the epilogue, The Spectral Serenade. Both are dramatic and extended movements, a complete reversal of the fortunes in the first four movements of the First Book. Themes and motifs from the earlier pieces were rehashed and revived in the overwrought melange that is the Balada, and the Epilogo to a certain extent. And if one did not recognise those motifs, the episodic nature of the pieces may not have made much sense. That was the warning provided by Glover, and to his credit, he did attempt to make it sound like a coherent whole.

Richard Wagner, Louis Brassin & Karl Tausig.

About the Wagner excerpts, these are Singaporean premieres, to my best knowledge. Surprisingly he did not include the Isoldes Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, but three pieces from Die Walk├╝re. The Magic Fire Music arranged by Louis Brassin is devilish to say the least, and there was some approximate playing in those upward sweeping arpeggios in various intervals, and the music wanted for some ethereal lightness. Better was Karl Tausig’s transcription of Siegmund’s Aria from Act One, which truly sang. Then came that impossible arrangement by Tausig of the Flight of the Valkyries, which almost came to grief at one point (Fright of the Valkyries?) but there was no want of trying. Whatever happened, Glover never lost control of the left hand’s big melody, even if it came in spadesful of octaves played at an unrelenting speed. He finished in one piece, and garnered a tumultuous ovation for his efforts.

Glover’s encores were lovely, first Liszt’s Liebestraume No.3 – full of romantic ardour – and the little known Jazzy from Aaron Copland’s Three Moods, a delightful trifle that sent the audience home happy.   

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