Moravec is a piano treasure
His mosaic of emotion, color and rhythm is music at its best.
Just when the American political scene has you conviced that civilization has sunk beneath all charity, it's comforting to know that one gentle, softspoken man can do what Ivan Moravec did Friday evening. Appearing at the Folly Theater, the Czech pianist shared with nearly 1,000 patrons the all too rare gift of the sublime.
There isn't a finer artist alive playing the piano, and maybe hasn't been for many a year. That Moravec isn't a household word - while machine-stamped competition winners clutter our stages and airwaves - says something about the inscrutable ways of the publicity industry.
That this was Moravec's third Kansas City appearance in six seasons should make us boundlessly grateful to the Friends of Chamber Music.
Not since Alfred Cortot, who died in 1962, has there been a Chopin player of comparable elegance. Even in the well-worn B-flat minor Sonata, Moravec discovered one hidden wonder after another. The range of colors, even in inner voices usually left to their own devices, was astonishing. But even more amazing was Moravec's eloquent pliancy of rhythm.
Would a given phrase press firmly on, or would Moravec linger tantalizingly before - or on - a crucial chord? There was no knowing - which made the experience both riveting and ravishing.
Lyrical sections of the sonata's first three movements were treated now with childlike directness (the Funeral March), now with almost extravagant freedom (the first movement). Four mazurkas flirted and teased, but also bared heart-rending vulnerabilities. For all this, there was nothing self-conscious or twee.
Cesar Franck's "Prelude, Chorale and Fugue" was played with great nobility, but also with a striking sense of the music's struggle to be born.
Who would think that a bunch of upsweeping arpeggios could sound so freighted with emotion?
To Leos Janacek's "In the Mist," with its sometimess perplexing shifts of mood and texture, Moravec brought the same nobility of expression, the same subtlety of rhythm and color. As with everything else on the program, the effect was of a personal revelation as intimate as it was honest and deeply felt.
Music-making of this emotional commitment and recreative vividness is a rare treasure. Moravec is a treasure. These were two hours to make one glad to be alive.