Australian Digital Live performance Corridor Kawai Piano Collection: Stefan Cassomenos – Hammerklavier

Introducing the primary live performance on this 12 months’s Kawai Piano Collection, Australian Digital Live performance Corridor co-director Adele Schonhardt reminded us of the historical past of building live-streamed concert events over two years in the past, giving many because of Nationwide Gross sales and Advertising Supervisor Warrick Baker for the mortgage of a Shigaru grand piano, which now has lengthened to an “unspecified timeframe”. Kawai’s beneficiant mortgage has allowed over 5 hundred concert events to happen because the first Covid lockdown put an finish to concert events throughout the globe. That beneficiant life-line has supported pianists equivalent to Melbourne’s illustrious and well-liked performer Stefan Cassomenos, who tonight opened the 2022 Kawai Piano Collection in Athenaeum 2. As a multi-talented soloist, accompanist, composer and pageant director, Cassomenos all the time attracts a daily viewers of all ages, listeners who anticipate and all the time obtain passionate performances of death-defying classical masterpieces and new or not often carried out modern piano works.

Gyorgy Ligeti’s important set of eighteen études for piano have been composed from 1985 to 2001, making a major and modern contribution to twentyth Century piano literature and the style of the “Research”. Etude No 4 – Fanfares – is a tightly designed gymnastic exercise focussing on one polyrhythmic construction in conventional Center Jap dances with combos of irregular dance beats (on this case a steady 3+2+3 rhythmic sequence) balanced towards extra forceful and expressive melodic interjections. Ligeti had instructed the work to be “Vivacissimo”, “Molto Ritmico”, and he added particular diversified expression and dynamic markings, with an altered whole-tone scale sample repeated in perpetual movement from begin to end. Naked and vibrant two-part melodic “Fanfares” have been launched towards the accompaniment. Cassomenos by no means paused for breath by the journey as palms swapped melody and accompaniment with easy connections, whereas executing excessive dynamics of fffin one hand andppppin the opposite; maybe not all the time did we hear pppppppp – the very excessive pianissimo that Ligeti unfairly requested for!That actually is a musicalconundrum. Glowing articulation, virtuosic exercise, cascading crystalised tones with immensely accented and thunderous bass notes, confirmed why Cassomenos is an thrilling participant to see.

Fanfares was a stimulating opening work, which additionally gave us a stunning decision, an ending with just a few gradual, descending spaced tones.

Sustaining the momentum and depth of this system, Cassomenos launched nearly immediately into Chaconne by Sofia Gubaidulina with explosive and loud atonal chords. Composed in 1962, this daring, assertive work was testimony to the composer’s fascination with improvisation and with the tone and free colors of percussion devices. The assertive concord within the opening theme turned a foundation for very contrasting ‘variations’, with polyrhythms, strident steady octaves in a single or each palms, and ornately ornamental, mathematically defiant notation and wild cadenza-like phrases bravely re-inventing concepts of a classical Chaconne. Cassomenos revelled within the mountainous musical language of this work, all the time in a position to deliver out vibrant and dramatic orchestral colors, so loud and declamatory, with nice stamina and endurance, but he may additionally calm the dramatic forces instantly, when a hotter questioning or brooding component was required.

Having programmed these two immense “entrée” works earlier than Beethoven’s Grand Sonata for the Fortepiano – the Hammerklavier Sonata No 29 in B-flat, Op 106, Cassomenos barely paused earlier than ascending the following musical mountain. In just some seconds he had triumphantly tossed the completed items to the aspect, and with an air of authority, confidence and function, drew our full consideration to the opening fanfare-like, percussive fortissimo chords of the primary work. From Beethoven’s final interval of composing got here one of many biggest, and longest, difficult and nearly unplayable sonatas of all time. Daring and adventurous, written because the composer’s deafness was growing and he was now not performing in public, the Hammerklavier is a problem to the most effective live performance pianists of each era. First carried out by a younger Liszt in Paris in 1836, it was a favorite of Barenboim’s throughout Covid lockdown, and tonight heard in a extremely gratifying and masterly efficiency by Cassomenos; a reside efficiency of this piece makes us really feel extra than simply the soul of Beethoven. In a piece as immense as this one, isn’t that what performers really feel too – an historic reference to this extraordinary composer and people who carry out?

Fairly a magical spotlight got here within the advanced third motion Adagio Sostenuto, the place intensive excessive rippling and flowing figurations have been spell-binding and a sense of stillness and small drops of sorrow flippantly flowed from the piano’s higher register over softly submerged left hand chords.

Cassomenos proved his command of the technical challenges as in the event that they have been well-known pathways he had climbed earlier than, with clear articulation and color by the fourth motion’s elevated and elongated trills and a ground-breaking three-voice fugue that defies any baroque affiliation with that kind. 

Cassomenos chosen an clever and intensely alluring program of three grand and passionate works. He led us efficiently over the best peaks and mountain ranges {that a} solo pianist can face. The viewers tremendously applauded his stamina, musical interpretation and excessive achievement in a memorable recital.

Imageo courtesy of Australian Digital Live performance Corridor.


Julie McErlain reviewed “Hammerklavier”, carried out by Stefan Cassomenos as a part of the Kawai Piano Collection at Athenaeum 2 on Could 12, 2022.