Yesterday afternoon pianist Lukáš Vondráček made a highly successful Vancouver recital debut under the auspices of The Vancouver Chopin Society. The fact that a sizable audience came out for the concert – even on Super Bowl Sunday - gives us the hope that the solo recital is very much alive and well.
The young artist began his formidable programme with Franz Schubert’s massive Sonata in B-flat major, D. 960. It has been a few years since every pianist seemed to be playing this sonata in recitals, and so I was eager to reacquaint myself with this old friend.
The first thing I noticed with Vondráček’s playing is clarity of textures. His use of pedal was sparse, and he really allowed us to hear Schubert’s subtle harmonic changes in the left hand. The G-flat major theme was not played in the dreamy way as many pianists would. The crescendochords (mm. 34-35) that transitions back to the opening chorale theme was played with a sharper attack than I have heard, and the return of the chorale sounded almost heroic (Schubert’s marking was forte). I liked the balance between the left hand theme and the right hand harmonic changes in the F-sharp minor theme (m. 48). Vondráček chose to play the repeat of the exposition – I believe he wanted to maintain the balance and architecture of the movement - thereby allowing us to hear Schubert’s quite extended first ending to the section. The ffand ffz outbursts before the return of the exposition were very effectively done indeed. Schubert lavished the coda with an incredible number of dynamic indications, all of which were realized by the pianist.
Vondráček’s playing of opening of the Andante sostenutomovement reminded me of a string quartet, with the violas and celli playing pizzicato notes while the 1stand 2ndviolins give us the main theme. Certainly he made this very clear for us with the clarity he lavished on the left hand staccatos. The A major section was played with a feeling of repose, and I liked the way he projected the theme with the sextuplet accompaniment. In the return of the C-sharp minor section, the pianist certainly painted a picture of bleakness that I feel was Schubert’s intention.