After too long a wait, this eager listener got to hear the world's finest pianist back in Detroit. Ivan played the Mozart d minor concerto with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Orchestra Hall, now crowned the Max Fisher Music Center. Hans Graff was the guest conductor, and he allowed Mr. Moravec the room to demonstrate to all who were there what real piano playing is all about. The orchestra was kept back enough so that all the exquisite details of the solo part came forth, but they spared no power when full support was required. The remarkable thing about Orchestra Hall is that even when the reduced orchestra was playing full out, the piano line was still clearly heard. At intermission, I had an opportunity to speak briefly with Mr. Moravec, who was busy signing autographs on cds for his fans. “Your hall is the very best,” he said. “Number 1,” with his hand coming up and index finger raised. It's the kind of acknowledgment that Detroit seldom gets, but to all of us who know, it is the truth.
MORAVEC IN MUELHEIM
The “Grandseigneur” of pianists is how the Westdeutsche Allgemeine (WAZ) newspaper described Ivan Moravec after the latter's concert in Muelheim an der Ruhr (Northrhine-Westphalia) on June 30th. The WAZ critic, Hajo Berns, implied that there were more obviously virtuoso performers at work during the current Klavierfestival Ruhr but none more subtle or distinguished. Quite a compliment since the dozens of pianists at this almost too comprehensive festival, that started on June 11th and ends on August 14, include Aimard, Barenboim, Brendel, Kissin, Sokolov and Zimerman.
Truth to tell, the Stadthalle Muelheim was not quite sold out on June 30th as it had been for Arkadi Volodos on the previous evening. The programme itself seemed aimed at connoisseurs from the start; a first half comprising Janacek's In the Mist and Sonatat “1.X.1905” as well as Debussy's Estampes, followed by an all-Chopin second half including the Ballade Nr. 4 and the F minor Fantasie. Moreover the rather dry acoustic of the hall did not let all the shades of Moravec's interpretations to emerge as well as they do at, say, the Concertgebouw or Carnegie Hall.
Still, as Berns noted, there were big rewards for the perservering. He praised Moravec's comprehensive mastery of Janacek's special language and his ability to penetrate to the heart of the Chopin pieces. As for the Debussy performance, Berns felt this fully justified the comparison often made between Moravec's playing and that of his erstwhile teacher Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Even Smetana's “harmless” little polka Souvenir of Pilsen, given as an encore, was delivered with such nobility of tone that it unleashed a real storm of enthusiasm, Berns concluded. And so it did!
LSO St Luke’s, Old Street EC1
There cannot be many people on the planet who travel to a Moravec concert in the following way – 15 mile car journey, 2 minute train journey, 15 minutes on a boat, then 2 hours on another train, before finishing off with a 20 minute taxi ride! Seriously though, my wife and I had a lovely day in London yesterday. The venue was very good indeed with an excellent resonant acoustic. The audience was probably just a shade over two hundred; thankfully it was the quietest audience I think I have ever experienced – not a single cough in the entire recital! The programme was as follows:
Janacek: In the Mists
Polka in G minor (T63)
Polka in A minor (T112)
Memories of Plzen (T38)
Janacek: Sonata 1.X.1905
Love Song Op 7/1
Longing Op 22a, Humoresque in C major
Humoresque Op 7/2
The single encore was a repeat of Memories of Plzen.
After the recital my wife and I went downstairs to the old crypt, which has now been converted to an excellent café/bar. We were enjoying our coffee and chatting to another lady when Mr Moravec and his wife came in (with his agent?) and sat down at the table next to us! By then there were probably 20 people in the café. When he got up to get his beer I also got up and asked his companions whether they thought he would mind accepting my congratulations on a wonderful recital. They confirmed that this was OK, and when Mr Moravec returned I offered my thanks, which were courteously received. He insisted on knowing my name so that he could personalise a greeting when signing the programme. All the while the little black bag was sitting on the table!!
I am so, so glad that we made the effort to hear such a wonderful artist.
S & H Recital Review
...here is a pianist with no affectation, no interpretative baggage and no larger than life personality. What you get with Moravec is the music - and playing of such perfection, such soulfulness and such sheer beauty that he holds his audience spellbound.
...His keyboard control ... verges between pianissimi of breathtaking stillness to fortes of savage – yet controlled – intensity... here was a pianist who not only knows this music intimately but with every keystroke laid open a world of intimate emotion, captured with rapturous tone...
...A broadcast of the concert can be heard on BBC Radio 3 on 20th October 2004 at 1pm. It is well worth catching.
Ivan Moravec was given a standing ovation at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw - packed almost to the last place - when he gave his first recital after a recent illness on Sunday, March 7th. Moravec had clearly lost weight and some wondered in advance whether it was wise for him to take on so taxing a programme in so huge a hall after several months off the concert circuit.
They need not have worried. Moravec was playing at least as well as ever, in some respects perhaps better than ever (a wonderfully flowing first movement to the Beethoven Moonlight, still more subtle shading in Debussy's Feux d'artifice). The Concertgebouw itself greatly helped. Many people know the hall as tailor-made for gigantic choral and/or orchestral works - like Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand or Strauss's Zarathustra. But it turned out to be absolutely ideal for a solo player too - at least when that player is Moravec. The full range of his tone bloomed as it never can in drier halls, without any sense of hardness or strain.
There was just one hitch. Moravec initially had trouble with a pedal, and between items had to appeal for the resident tuner to come onstage to fix it - a long trip, since at the Concertgebouw you only reach the stage by descending a long and vertiginous flight of stairs. Still, the man finally made the trek and fixed the errant object - receiving an approving pat on the head from Moravec, who then proceeded with the recital unperturbed.
The complete programme was
|Beethoven - 32 Variations in C minor, Moonlight sonata|
|Brahms - 2 Intermezzi, Capriccio, Rhapsody|
|Debussy - Estampes - Feux d'Artifice|
|Encores: Chopin - Prelude, Mazurka Smetana - Memories of Pilsen|