Federico Colli made his rescheduled Vancouver recital debut under the auspices of The Vancouver Chopin Society yesterday. It was an astounding musical experience, a stunning display of much more than pianism and virtuosity – although they were there, in spades - but musical sensitivity, original thinking, and an acute awareness of the infinite palate of colours afforded by the piano.
Colli began his recital with a group of seven Scarlatti sonatas, playing them as a group without interruption. The young artist has been much praised for his interpretations of Scarlatti, and reason was immediately apparent. Right from the first note, he sets an almost religious atmosphere with his unbelievably beautiful sound and his wonderfully leggieroplaying. I do not think I remember hearing such pianissimos – it was otherworldly – he drew the enthralled audience into his magical sound world.
For the next work on the programme – Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat major, K. 333 – I found myself almost more fascinated by Colli’s ideas than the composer’s design. Although the composer is very sparing in dynamic and articulation markings throughout the score (the composer was a little bit more specific with dynamics in the third movement), Colli’s interpretation nevertheless gave us some very new and fresh insights different from what we often hear. From first note to last, it was not a performance of great drama and contrast, but rather like a meditation on the score. Like a master curator, Colli illuminated this great work with new insights and invited us to behold this masterpiece in an entirely new light.
After intermission, the pianist gave us the Canadian premiere of Maria Gringber’s arrangement of Schubert’s chamber music masterwork, the Fantasy in F minor, originally written for piano, four hands, written in the incredible fertile annus mirabilis of the composer’s last year. What is remarkable about this arrangement is that none of the details in the original musical texture is lost in the transcription, which means that the arrangement requires a performer of transcendental pianism, of which Colli is one. Under his hands, it really did at times sound like there were not one but two artists playing this work.
The final work of the afternoon’s concert, Busoni’s reworking of Bach’s monumental Chaconne in D minor, from the second partita for solo violin. In our age of obsessiveness with performance practice, this work could seem like something from a different age, which I suppose it is. That said, Colli’s playing of it compelled us to listen to it as a great piano work from the romantic age of pianism, not as a mere transcription. In this performance, he once again demonstrated his superhuman command of every facet of piano playing, as well as an uncanny awareness of and sensitivity to the infinite dynamics and colours he commanded from the Steinway.
As an encore, the mood lightened considerably as Colli took a delightful romp through Turkish pianist Fazil Say’s arrangement of Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca, bringing the audience to its feet one final time before the young artist had to rush to the airport to continue on the next leg of his musical journey.
Bravo Federico, and kudos to The Vancouver Chopin Society for arranging this major debut, I think we can safely say, one of today’s outstanding musical “stars”. Come back soon!