Music Review from the Columbus Dispatch
Pianist's recital packed with history, emotion
Sunday, March 10, 2002
Dispatch Senior Critic
Pianist Anton Kuerti simultaneously made and rewrote music history last night in a thoroughly engrossing solo recital at the Southern Theatre.
Playing the rededication performance of a Steinway concert grand that has been silent for far too long, Kuerti demonstrated an almost infinite array of colors and timbres; in his hands the recently refurbished piano proved worthy of its new name, the Battelle Steinway.
In his repertoire -- all works composed within a few decades of one another by composers working in or around Vienna, Austria -- Kuerti offered some surprises. A quartet of works carefully arranged according to type, if not composer, created something of a giant four- movement "sonata.''
The beginning and ending were relatively brief pieces that, emotionally, contained little middle ground. In both the Mendelssohn Fantasia in F-Sharp Minor and the Beethoven Sonata in C-Sharp Minor, the famous "Moonlight'' sonata, the artist offered readings structured as polar opposites.
The middle works proved most absorbing.
Music history often lumps Schubert and Schumann together as late classicists/early romantics who flourished primarily as song composers. Kuerti's choice of music to represent each composer, and his stunning, quite personal interpretations, revealed a deeper understanding.
Schubert's late Sonata in A Major, D. 959 -- a work brimming with ideas and melodies -- was dispatched in a carefully articulated but introspective and balanced way.
Here was Schubert, the tuneful classicist, a master of form and formality. In this performance, Kuerti showed the piano's quick responsiveness and lovely timbres from bottom pitch to top -- at even the softest volume.
The Schumann Fantasia in C Major, Op. 17, though, was the performance of the evening. In a recent interview, Kuerti acknowledged his great love of Schumann, placing him at the top of his pantheon of composers.
This special affinity and affection clearly was evident last night. Kuerti seemed to be searching the music anew in each movement, and his playing had a sense of discovery and spontaneity.
He also left little doubt that, in this work, he believes the composer belongs in, what in Schumann's day, would have been the "rival'' camp. Rather than in conservative partnership with Brahms, Kuerti clearly moved Schumann over to the Liszt- Wagner camp -- in other words -- as a true romantic.
Moreover, if there had been any worries about the Battelle Steinway's ability to speak with authority at top volume, the performance of the Schumann Fantasy erased every concern. Kuerti released the instrument's majestic capabilities, leaving no doubt that the piano will serve its new owner, the Columbus Chamber Music Society, ably for many years to come.