rich sound of a truly Grand Piano.
Der Wilde Jagd showed off all these qualities to the full and was the final piece on the programme.
What better way to sum up all that had gone before.
This was a musicianly performance in which this little tone poem was given such shape and colour together with a technical control that gave such clarity to all that she did. From the savage opening of the hunt to the playful call of the horn and finally the sumptuous melodic outpouring of the central section.Played with real passion and such beauty of sound that contrasted so well with the final tempestuous outrage that was played quite fearlessly with superb control not only of speed and accuracy but also of absolute fidelity to Liszt’s very precise indications of fortissimo,pianissimo and staccato and marcato.
An encore after that would have defeated most pianists but Asagi still had a trump card up her sleeve with the study op 10.n.1 by Chopin.
These studies dedicated to Liszt can in the right hands be pure poetry.
And it was this that she gave us.
Not the usual barn storming opening study of the first more transcendental set of 12 but a full blooded musical account with some very delicate colours and fleetingly articulated arpeggios that contrasted so well with the overall grandeur of the opening.The bass could have been even more pronounced as the arpeggios are only an accompaniment to the grandiose organ stops of the left hand.
Coming after such a long and varied programme it was indeed a tour de force from this deceptively delicate looking young pianist.
The programme had begun with a very beautifully shaped Prelude in G minor BWV 861 from the 1st book of the 48.A flexibility that gave great shape to this most mellifluous of preludes before the absolute clarity of her playing in the fugue.The subject of this four part fugue always allowed to appear so clearly with the contrapuntal meanderings leaving it the front of stage even in the final two majestic bars.
The little sonata in D K 311 by Mozart was played with such a joyous sparkle.The ornaments like jewels gleaming in the bright sunlight of this almost Scarlatti like opening movement.The Andante con espressione was allowed to sing with such touching simplicity and her great sense of balance allowed the melodic line to be shaped so sensitively and with such aristocratic good taste. The Rondeau was played with a great sense of ‘joie de vivre’ with very delicate dynamic contrasts with a charming question and answer between the hands.The cadenza gave just a momentary respite before the return of the rondo and the sparkling passage work and drive to the final heroic chords.
The cycle of twelve variations on Szymanowski’s own theme was composed during the years 1901-1903 and dedicated to his friend Artur Rubinstein.
It is in the late Romantic style, echoing the tradition of the nineteenth-century composers of piano music, above all Schumann and . The majority of the variations are of strikingly virtuoso character, emanating with the brilliance of great piano playing, and demonstrating young Szymanowski’s perfect intuition for the technical and timbral possibilities of the piano.
Rich harmony, strongly saturated with chromaticisms, indicates that the composer was by then standing at the edge of the major-minor tonal system, and only a step away from creating his own, new musical language.They were played with such subtle colouring.
The beautifully shaped theme was followed by the variations each one characterised by such a superb sense of balance.From the sumptuous tenor register with filigree accompaniment to the very busy variation almost in Rachmaninovian style passing via the sombre third to the lightweight octaves thrown off with such ease The most original variation- Andantino quasi tempo di mazurka introduces a stylisation of a Polish folk dance and thus, in a sense, foreshadows the much later Mazurkas op 50 also dedicated to Rubinstein.
The final variation was played with great passion and technical assurance and brought this brilliant early work to an exciting conclusion.
The other unjustly neglected work that Asagi had included was the Handel/Liszt Sarabande and Chaconne from ‘Almira’ S 181.A set work for the Liszt competition in Utrecht in which Asagi was one of the fourteen selected to take part.
Leslie Howard, the Chairman of the jury, has so eloquently described this work: ‘Almira was Handel’s first opera, and it received such scant attention that it is little short of amazing that Liszt should have taken it up, writing a sort of double set of variations on the two dances which occur near the beginning of the work (Chaconne then Sarabande in the opera). Curiously, it is the Sarabande which predominates, rather like a Bach-type chaconne, whereas the Chaconne proper is of the balletic variety and nothing to do with repeated bass lines. This almost amounts to an original work of Liszt’s (and Humphrey Searle so catalogued it) but Handel always remains part of the equation, even in the grandiose major key transformation of the Sarabande at the end.’
Asagi played it with sumptuous sound and also with tender delicacy and great sense of colour.Her superb technical assurance allowed Liszt’s grandiose rhetoric to be shaped with great musical meaning.Another work of Liszt that unjustly neglected has been brought to our notice via the inspiring and tireless work of Leslie Howard.Asagi’s superb performance had one longing to hear it programmed more often side by side with the more noted works of the still not completely appreciated genius of the Romantic era that is Franz Liszt.