More and more on this 21st century we’re experiencing extremely thrilling occasions in Melbourne’s live performance halls with the music of latest and newly rising Australian composers being featured often in each stand-alone packages or in mainstream festivals. Our musical lives are additionally actually rewarded by the dedication of eminent musicians and educators resembling Australian legend Stephen McIntyre, who promotes hardly ever carried out works of almost-forgotten composers, giving them deserved recognition and publicity.
French composer Charles Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) was a big colleague of Chopin and Liszt, so it isn’t shocking that he was a virtuosic pianist, who composed many distinctive and technically difficult piano works. McIntyre selected 25 Preludes for Piano Op 31, an astonishing number of intense and vibrant items that cycled via all the key and minor keys. How many people are overwhelmed by selecting colors in a industrial paint store, taking a look at a pattern color strip and being astonished simply by the numerous shades of white! McIntyre is a supreme grasp of color, and he delivered a myriad of vibrant shades and sonorities important for this program. By way of a rating of fifty plus pages of assorted musical portraits, McIntyre held the viewers spell-bound, taking us again in time, immersing us in completely timed adjustments of sonorities and silences as we felt the extreme spirit and element in Alkan’s imaginative work.
There was a transparent silvery tone within the gradual resonant chords of Prelude No 1 – Lentement, as if some mystical bells have been inviting us in to Alkan’s religious world. From this opening key of C main, Prelude No 2 in F minor typified a right away distinction, as a brief melancholic voice alternated with assertive, staccato marching rhythms, saying Alkan’s continuously used gadget of fixing quickly between main and minor key sections. Prelude No 3 detailed additional the mental designs and religious contrasts on this program, as a poetical and lyrical melody stepped gently and gracefully above a constantly shifting chordal accompaniment. Most attention-grabbing was the setting for No 5 Prelude in D (Psalm 150), with the instruction “to be performed with enthusiasm” as rising chord passages and altering time signatures described a brand new design and sound. Maybe Alkan’s most extraordinary musical language got here in Prelude No 8, Tune of the Madwoman Beside the Sea, a darkish and disturbing piece in Ab minor. The pianist’s left hand was anchored onto the bottom bass notes of darkly textured, gentle however dense chords, repeated with light repetition however foreboding intent. Unusual, naked melodic shapes have been excessive on the piano, virtually incomplete, discovering a separate path, unhappy and disturbing. Even adjustments of texture with the contrasting main key episode added little consolation, and we have been moved as this extraordinary portrait pale to nothing. Most of the preludes ended with softly sustained fade-outs, the favorite Romantic coda when ardour is spent, so fantastically felt within the colors and acoustic from the high quality piano in Athenaeum 2. In Bb minor, Prelude No 12, Time Previous, created a misty, dreamy and reflective sweetness, with repeated chords in beautiful easily flowing quintuplets.
Technically hanging was prelude No 20, successfully a examine in staccato, fortissimo double octaves with a shocking unfinished cadence. McIntyre at all times demonstrates such an air of ease and style via essentially the most spectacular technically difficult passages, even when precise athleticism required each fingers to often rise and fall in reverse instructions on the keys with incessant energy and pleasure. As soon as once more Alkan’s use of parallel key adjustments from D minor to D main added richer color however no change of feeling, because the depth of the temper and spirit of every prelude was nonetheless successfully retained.
The right ending got here with the final two Preludes. We held our breath via No 24 in E minor, Etude de Virtuosité, with its streams of unbroken delicate chromatic flights of fancy, precision pushed staccato leaps, rising dramatic crescendos and cascades of rising and falling arpeggios. Had McIntyre exhausted all the colors in his palette? Not fairly. Alkan returned us to the opening key of C main for Prelude No 25, Prayer, and McIntyre confirmed us his palette of the numerous shades of white. The colors of peace and concord have been felt in Alkan’s calm, reassuring rhythms and mild translucent chords, sensitively expressed by McIntyre’s deep respect for the composer and his mastery of the piano.
There was prolonged viewers applause for Stephen McIntyre’s achieved and interesting efficiency, the numerous magical moments of his piano enjoying and his inspiring interpretation of Alkan’s fascinating compositions.
Julie McErlain reviewed Kawai Piano Collection – Stephen McIntyre: ALKAN – 25 Preludes Op 31, carried out on the Athenaeum Theatre 2 on March 11, 2022.