Schumann: Kinderszenen, Op. 15
Schumann: Piano Sonata No. 1 in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 11
Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte
After happily basking in the dazzling sounds of the intimate, resolutely eclectic recital by Leila Josefowicz and Jon Novacek in the small Zankel Hall on Tuesday night, I was back at Carnegie Hall, in the sizeable Stern Auditorium this time, for a – by default – less intimate, Franco-German recital by Jean-Yves Thibaudet on Wednesday night.
The prestigious space, ideal for large scale events, is far less conducive to creating the perfect atmosphere for the close and personal experience that is a recital or a chamber music performance. It is, however, the obvious choice for the big names in the classical music world, who for better or worse have outgrown Zankel, with the flawless acoustics making up to some degree for the lack of intimacy. So on Wednesday I headed to Midtown again to end another dreary November day on another uplifting note.
One of Robert Schumann's most rightly popular works, Kinderszenen seems to be at first a rather simple composition, but it progressively reveals a vast array of deeply heart-felt emotions as the short scenes from childhood quickly succeed one another. On Wednesday, the dreaminess of "Träumerei", the joyfulness of "Glückes genug" and the spookiness of "Fürchtenmachen", just to name a few of the vignettes, all came through with understated contrast and refreshing directness for a lively and manifold concert opener.
Kinderszenen may have been a favorite of Schumann's beloved Clara, but it is probably a safe bet to assume that she was just as taken with his Piano Sonata No. 1. And for a good reason. Describing it as "a cry from my heart to yours", the hopelessly infatuated composer used his reliable signature alter egos – the introvert Florestan and the extrovert Eusebius – to express his passionate feelings towards the young pianist without raising her father's suspicion. Here again, Jean-Yves Thibaudet applied his considerable skills for a committed rendition of this fierce declaration of love.
When I decided to get a ticket for this concert, my main interest rested unquestionably in hearing Thibaudet perform Schumann. But if I went for Schumann and enjoyed the two pieces of his, I remained pretty much astounded at the renditions of Ravel's Miroirs. After a delicate "Pavane pour une infante défunte ", the suddenly fired-up pianist went on to paint the remarkably self-contained tableaux with bold, vividly colored strokes, gently and not so gently evoking the rippling movement of the water in "Une barque sur l'océan" (A boat at sea) and authoritatively conjuring up some sizzling hot Spanish rhythms in "Alborada del gracioso" (Morning song of the jester). Subtlety and soulfulness were the names of the game in "Oiseaux tristes" (Sad birds) and "La vallée des cloches" (The Valley of bells).
Our rousing ovation was acknowledged with two encores, an assertive Intermezzo in A Major by Brahms and an achingly beautiful "Kupelwieser-Walzer", Schubert's Waltz in G-flat Major, arranged by Strauss. The concert ended even better than it had started.