Monday, 31 March 2014

TOROS CAN Piano Recital / Review

TOROS CAN Piano Recital
Alliance Francaise
Saturday (29 March 2014)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 31 March 2014 with the title "Mouth-watering piano treat".

For an Islamic nation, Turkey has produced a surprising number of high level Western classical musicians. This may be attributed to its progressive, open-minded Euro-leaning culture over the decades and the pioneering work by German composer-pedagogue Paul Hindemith during the 1930s.

Just sticking to pianists, one might already know of Idil Biret, Fazil Say and Ozgur Aydin. Now meet Toros Can, a Yale graduate, who gave one of the most unusually eclectic piano recitals in memory here. Revealing very catholic tastes, his two-hour recital traversed from traditional classical repertoire to the musical equivalent of pop art.

Beginning with Schubert’s Sonata (D.485), the longer of two great sonatas in A minor, Can tapped into the Austrian’s world of the Lieder (art song). Within its four movements, he freed a wellspring of melancholy and wistfulness, translated as darkly shaded chords and no little lyricism. By not playing repeats, he kept the narrative short-winded, and in the excitable final Rondo, the dramatics lifted the mood even if unspoken tragedy was the underlying tenor.

Like many American-trained musicians, Can spoke engagingly to a small but receptive audience. The second half, in his own words, was “when the fun begins”. There were two fugal works, but neither by J.S.Bach. Karol Szymanowski’s Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor was thick with lush dissonances, but the contrapuntal lines were handled with great clarity.

Can played Cesar Franck’s Prelude, Fugue and Variation using its original score for organ rather than the Harold Bauer transcription favoured by pianists. Perhaps trying to imitate the pipe organ’s sonority, the end result was somewhat effortful, but the embellished reprise of the main melody at the end was sublime.

The last three pieces, dovetailing 17th century and late 20th  to early 21st century sensibilities, piqued the ear with sheer outrageousness. Late British composer Jonathan Harvey’s Tombeau De Messiaen (1994), a memorial for the great Frenchman, combined taped sounds (now reproduced on an Apple computer) with crashing chords, cascading carillons and birdsong. The effect was that of two pianos going head to head, but the tuning being a microtone apart and distortion from the speakers meant that the bold experiment was not fully realised.

Then came three dainty dances from a keyboard suite by Henry Purcell, with the piano now made to sound like a harpsichord with its plucked effects. What truly brought down the house was Dutchman Jacob ter Veldhuis’s The Body Of Your Dreams (2003).

Nominally a minimalist piece, the piano here flexed its rock-influenced muscles against an aural collage of taped television fitness and health product commercials. Try as hard as one might, it is difficult not to supress laughter on hearing repeated messages like, “That cellulite and flabbiness…How can you beat it?”

The now riotous evening concluded with an encore, Can’s own 4-hand version of Morton Gould’s Boogie Woogie Etude, with the help of his page-turner for the evening, the young Singaporean pianist Nicholas Ho. The rhythmic bonbon had the same effect as downing a Turkish delight after dinner: mouth-watering.

No comments: