Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eldar Nebolsin Review

Eldar Nebolsin, piano
Bennett-Gordon Hall
Sunday, September 4, 2011. 6:00pm.


•Sonata in A, D. 664

•Sonata in E flat, Op. 7


•"Das Wandern", "Wohin", "Der Muller und der Bach"

•An die ferne Geliebte

•Totentanz (solo piano version)

Well, this is going to be one of "those" reviews.

When I write a review of a performance, I try to strive for something constructive; I think the perfect review is entertaining, informative and comprehensible to the prospective listener while at the same time remaining constructive and meaningful as as critique for the performer. If I had to sit down with Mr. Nebolsin and tell him what I thought of his performance, the conversation might go something like this:

Eldar Nebolsin: What did you think of my performance?
Pierre Miller: Well, it was certainly technically capable.
EN: That's all?
PM: Well, it was.
EN: If you had to sum it up in a word?
PM: In a single word? Affected.
EN: Really?
PM: Yes, the exposition of the first movement of the Beethoven sonata came with a good deal of chin wagging, and in the fourth movement, every hand crossing came with its own cutesy facial expression. I didn't see the Schubert sonata, but in the transcriptions, every time the music expressed humor, you brought everything to a full stop and made a cheesy grin. Fortunately, the rest of your Liszt was just as histrionic as it should be. To be honest, it's been a long time since I've seen anyone swivel, gyrate, gesticulate and pivot on their heel that much while sitting down who wasn't four years old.
EN: In two words?
PM: Incompletely polished. The Beethoven sonata was well played, but in the slow, emotional core of the sonata, you didn't let the music breathe enough. You tried to give it some breadth, but you only projected an incomplete sense of repose, which gave us the impression that the music was tired, but wasn't sleeping well. In the last two of the Schubert-Liszt pieces, your phrasing was nothing but virile statements: strong openings, strong closes–even in the weeping, sinuous lines of The Miller and the Brook, you took music that was weeping and tried to make it sound heroic. (And, not in a Cuba Gooding Jr. "strong and powerful through the tears" sort of way.) In the Beethoven-Liszt, you had your first really great emotional moment, but I don't think anybody noticed because it happened in the middle of a thick stack of boring, unknown, homogenous-sounding pieces. The bland harmony was irritating enough without having to hear you sight-read it and work out what you wanted to do with your touch. That reminds me of two other words I would use to describe your program.
EN: What's that?
PM: Oddly programmed. The Liszt transcriptions of An die fern Geliebte? Those were not forgotten masterworks. Nobody cares about them! Perhaps you knew that the music couldn't stand on its own without the benefit of text. This might explain why you distracted us by swirling around like a top. You intentionally made the last half of the program all Liszt–surely, Liszt wrote better things!
EN: What was the best part of the concert?
PM: I like that you took off your coat and untucked your shirt before you played the Totentanz. You played it well, and I liked the way you rewrote the ending. You ended the concert with a very good bang, and it earned you a standing ovation. However, it was kind of awkward the way you kept squeezing out encores even though the audience had almost completely stopped clapping and was packing up. Gauge us next time.

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