Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ingrid Fliter in Vancouver

A wonderful celebration of music took place in Vancouver this past Sunday. Pianist Ingrid Fliter gave a recital of music by Haydn, Beethoven and Chopin, one that left me in a state of exultation and wonderment.

She opened her programme with Haydn’s E Minor sonata, Hob. XVI:34. Coincidentally, Ms. Fliter played the same sonata in her last recital appearance here, and it is interesting to hear how she has evolved as an artist – every turn of phrase is now more exquisite, every note in a passage work like pearls in a necklace, and every one of the many pregnant pauses charged with meaning.

Ms. Fliter also manages to bring out the quirky sense of humour that is so unique to Haydn’s piano sonatas. In the instantly memorable third movement, I was reminded of the words of Ignaz Ernst Ferdinand Arnold, who wrote in 1810 that, “The last Allegros or Rondos consist frequently of short, nimble movements that reach the highest degree of comicality by often being worked out most seriously, diligently and learnedly… Any pretence at seriousness only serves the purpose of making the playful wantonness of the music appear as unexpected as possible, and of teasing us from every side until we succumb and give up all attempts to predict what will happen next.” Indeed, this movement, a highly structured hybrid of rondo and theme and variations, aptly fits this description. Ingrid Fliter captured Haydn’s innocentemente marking to perfection, and the lightness and nimbleness of her playing making the performance a breathtaking one.

Beethoven sonatas have been an integral part of Ingrid Fliter’s recital programmes since her first recital here. In her previous two recital appearances, she played, respectively, the composer’s Op. 31, No. 3 and Op. 10, No. 3 sonatas. On Sunday, she turned to the middle of the three Op. 31 sonatas, and gave a performance that captured the high drama of the first movement, filled with portentous silences, the almost peaceful and tranquil second, disturbed by interjections of quick triplet figures, and the ethereal third movement, which somehow always reminds me of the composer’s famous Für Elise. I hope to hear Ms. Fliter in some of Beethoven’s later sonatas - perhaps the Op. 101, Op. 109, or Op. 110 sonatas would suit her beautifully.

After the interval, Ms. Fliter treated us to ten of Chopin’s waltzes, beginning with the first two published ones, Op. 18 and Op. 34, No. 1, and then proceeding in her own planned order until she ended her performance with the masterful Op. 42 waltz. The surprise in her programming was her inclusion and beautiful performance of two of the Op. Posthumous waltzes, the A-flat major and the A minor, the latter of which is not even included in the otherwise comprehensive Paderewski edition of the composer’s works. Her performance of these waltzes reminded me how unique each of the waltzes is, and how each work is, remarkably, with its relative brevity, absolutely self-contained and developed. Especially moving was her performance of the great C-sharp minor Waltz, Op. 64, No. 2, in which she brought out the otherworldly beauty of Chopin’s music. Ms. Fliter’s performance was sometimes whimsical, sometimes impetuous, and always ravishing. She delivered the waltzes with a freshness and sincerity that made me feel that I was hearing them for the first time.

The two delectable encores – Chopin’s Nocturne, Op. 9, No.3 and the scherzo of Beethoven’s Op. 31, No. 3 sonata – were just as memorable. She gave us all the nobility and beauty of the nocturne, and brought split-second timing in bringing out the humour, as well as the final “punch line” of the ending, in the Beethoven scherzo.
Ms. Fliter is an artist who uses her musicianship and considerable pianistic ability to bring us close to the heart of the music. We the audience are the beneficiaries of the fruits of her continuing artistic journey. I, for one, can only hope for many more of such memorable musical experiences from this remarkable musician in the nearest future.

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