Beethoven: Eleven Bagatelles, Op. 119
Beethoven: Sonata no 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110
Beethoven: Six Bagatelles, Op. 126
Beethoven: Sonata no 26 in E-flat Major, Op. 81a "Les adieux"
After a decidedly untimely snow storm led to the cancellation of Emanuel Ax's concert on February 9, the event was eventually rescheduled by the People's Symphony Concerts for last Saturday night with Peter Serkin at the High School of Fashion Industries, in Chelsea. Originally ambivalent, I was eventually swung into going by the various incentives of hearing Peter Serkin for the first time, discovering a new concert venue with... a cat walk (?!), as well as relishing an all-Beethoven program and, last but not least, the company of my friend Dawn.
The Eleven Bagatelles that opened the concert were, predictably enough, a wide-ranging series of appealing snippets that kept going and going without ever a dull or uncertain moment. The playing was assured and knowledgeable, strongly emphasizing the distinct moods of the numerous pieces.
Later on, the set of Six Bagatelles, Beethoven's last composition for the piano, opened the second part of the concert. This was another opportunity to enjoy a master musician bringing to life the deceptively inconspicuous work of a master composer.
But we also got to hear more substantial fare in the form of two sonatas. The No 31 was very pleasant, but the No 26 was by far the highlight of the evening. Inspired by the departure, absence and return of his friend and patron the Archiduke Rudolph, it consists of two poignant movements brightly contrasting with the joyful finale. Peter Sorkin being more adept at technical precision than emotional abandon, his approach was solidly intellectual, but he still managed a few transporting moments that even prompted some members of the audience to start clapping after each movement.
Now what is a pianist supposed to play after an all-Beethoven recital? Well, more Beethoven, of course! And that's just what we got with the third movement of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 25 in G, played with just about the same unshakable aplomb.