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Aleksandar Madzar (piano)


Beethoven Diabelli Variations Op 120

Haydn Piano Sonata in Ab HWVI 46

Ravel Miroirs


Recital Room, Blackheath Halls, 4 June 2006


Less transparent in structure than the Goldbergs, far longer than the Brahms Handel variations, the Diabellis represent the very end of Beethoven's struggle at the piano to liberate himself from form and physical limitation, and enter into an entirely interiorised and personal world. They made an immensely challenging opening to a morning concert. It is greatly to Aleksandar Madzar's credit that he made so difficult a work so easy to absorb.


Aleksandar Madzar has excellent technique, quick fingers (allowing a quicksilver Variation 23 and crisp ornaments in 9 and 11), accurate wrists giving him very precise chordal playing (such as in variations 2, 9), the least hint of contrapuntal music or counter-melody is always expertly voiced, so that the final fugue, for example was far clearer and less indigestible than usual. Above all, Madzar's playing is extremely clean – our age, both professionalised and digitised - frowns on wrong notes, although they are often overlooked in the excitement of live recital by ‘big names.' But crucially, in these times of well-practised, but musically unimaginative pianists, Madzar has a distinctive pianistic personality, a cool classicism allied to careful judgment and emotional restraint. His tone is also very individual, its silvery, dry quality aided by judiciously exiguous pedalling; if he were a wine, he would be a flinty Puligny.


Such dryness did not imply a lack of subtlety and colour – the piano sang (in Var.3 or 24), conveyed sonorous bells in 20, recalled the delicacy of the Op 96 violin sonata in 30. At times in the loudest and densest passages, the tone became hard-edged, though arguably a ‘D' piano, a larger room and a warmer acoustic would have made Madzar's task easier, since Var. 9, marked pesante, was more agreeably pompous dignity than offensive heaviness.


Madzar's silver sound perfectly suited the Haydn aria-like Adagio , while his exact diction gave the outer movements a clipped virtuosity, mannered in the best sense of the word. All Madzar's virtues of irony and structure were still evident during the Ravel, as he shaped the music with great skill and negotiated its corners with seeming lack of effort. One admired the intuitive discipline of Oiseaux tristes , the sheen of his arpeggios in Une Barque . At times, however, Madzar's coolness seemed to become simply too cold, Alborada del gracioso too much left everything in its right place; this was Ravel that was pointillist more than mainstream impressionist.


In Beethoven, there is not only transcendence but also titanic struggle, in Haydn, humour and good cheer as well as decorum and elegance; Ravel is passionately Latin as well as allusively French. Music is above all, as Gidon Kremer said in a recent interview ‘the language of the emotions.' Madzar's clarity of thought and execution is absolutely exemplary, but his Ravel might have been less stiff and inflexible, his Haydn more witty, less monochrome, even his Beethoven less Olympian.


Several regular attenders at this venue commented that the resident Boesendorfer had never sounded better- not least in representation of bells in the Ravel Clochers that concludes Miroirs - undoubtedly an enormous tribute to the artist in an intuitive and instant rapport with the instrument.


Overall, with a small cavil at its almost preternatural sense of control, an outstanding recital.


© Ying Chang