Chloe Mun at the Duszniki Chopin Festival Refined perfection and aristocratic simplicity

A recital of Schumann and Chopin of such refined perfection and aristocratic simplicity where the music just flowed from her fingers with a control and sense of colour that was of ‘sublime perfection’.
There was passion and technical brilliance too when needed but an overall line and subtle sense of colour that belied any personal rhetoric or showmanship.
Here was someone listening so intently to the sounds she was making and was able to control her performances with a musicianship and sense of style that was unique.
Kinderszenen by Schumann were exactly that – ‘scenes of childhood’ where each piece was a miniature tone poem of a magic world that Schumann depicts with such poetry and character.
‘In slumberland’-Kind im Einschlummern- was so beautiful because she noted all the minute detail that Schumann had indicated and the simplicity with which the final pungent harmonies were allowed to almost play themselves was indeed sublime.
Leading to the final ‘Poet speaks’- who could not have been touched here by Alfred Cortot’s magic performance of such depth and poignancy.
Chloe arrived at the same heights but with the simplicity of a child rather than the reminiscence of an adult.Her extraordinary attention to detail had me searching the score as I have only done in the past with Murray Perahia’s performances of poetry,intellectual refinement and transcendental command.
A Pandora’s box full of sparkling radiant jewels.
To watch Chloe you would not think it possible to produce such sounds for the rounded precision of her fingers do not have the same beauty as those of Volodos.
Even her body movements show no sign of the great landscapes she is depicting.
But obviously she has a total concentration looking at the keys with dagger like glances and shaping from within every note with jewel like perfection .
‘Wichtige Begebenheit’ – great event -I have never heard played with such authority with the fortissimo central section contrasting with the outer contours and a ‘Traumerei’ that was of such subtle colouring even the final lead up to the chord in the last bars was played with unusual sensitivity as it was allowed to dissolve so magically to the final farewell.
There was a wonderful sense of line in ‘Am Kamin’- by the fireside- where her sense of balance allowed the melody to speak so eloquently without any forcing.’Ritter von Steckenpferd’- on the rocking horse – was played at a sedate pace instead of the usual reckless rocking.Rock and roll indeed .
Schumann’s subtle phrasing allowed time to breathe as it built to a grandiose final ride.The syncopated melodic line in ‘Fast zu ernst’- almost too serious -was a lesson in sublime simplicity and sense of control with a balance of ravishing beauty that led to ‘Furchtenmachen’- Hobgoblin-that was enough to scare even the hardiest of souls.’Hasche – Mann’- Blind man’s bluff -was thrown off with an ease and precision that made the contrast with the ‘Bittendes Kind’ – pleading child – even more poignant before the joyous joie de vivre of ‘Gluckes genug’ – Perfect happiness .
‘Vom fremden Landern und Menschen’-A tale of distant lands -that Chloe opened with was played with the same subtle attention to detail and with beauty of sound that held our attention from the very first note.
What stories she had to share with us , but even if we had heard the same tale many many times before today there was a story teller who could share her fantasy and surprise as she described each scene as if for the very first time.
Schnabel had famously said,referring to Mozart,that it is music too difficult for adults but too easy for children .Chloe has shown us today what simplicity can really mean when allied to an artist who listens with a palette of colours ready to capture our imagination.
The second work by Schumann in this recital streamed live from Poland was the Davidsbundlertanze op 6.
Listening to the performance today I was once again convinced that this is the greatest of all Schumann’s works.
The heights of beauty that he reaches in the 14th dance are quite overwhelming as is the fantasy world he creates in the 17th – so similar to the magic world of Ravel in the last of his ‘Valses nobles’ where they both look back with nostalgia and sense of fantasy that is of pure genius for the atmosphere that is evoked.
And Schumann goes even further with the deep nostalgia of the final little valse de l’adieu and as the composers himself adds “Quite superfluously Eusebius remarked as follows: but all the time great bliss spoke from his eyes.”
It is a very complex work to hold together as a whole and needs an undercurrent to flow without interruption from the first to the last note – a long journey admiring the view but without too much lingering or stopping.
Gieseking has always been a model for me and only equalled on record by the sublime colours that Geza Anda could add.
I once suggested to Fou Ts’ong that he might like to play them at his annual visit to my concert series in Rome.He learnt them especially and even recorded them but like André Tchaikowsky he loved them so much he could not resist adding an over personal touch to something that is already Schumann’s own fantasy world.Smothered by by love indeed.That is the problem on how to define the true balance between the architectural line in which the details must be allowed to sparkle and shine too.
Murray Perahia played them like the great poet he is and he had the jury members of the Leeds Competition famously in tears.
Chloe came close today with her ravishing sense of colour and refined sense of line.
The great Balladenmassig with which the second book opens was played with all the passion and sumptuous sound of the grandest of Brahms and was a complete contrast to the fleeting lightness and melodic insinuations of the opening Lebhaft.The beseeching quality of the second dance ‘ inning’ was played with a sense of line that was truly golden and contrasted so well with the rhythmic high jinks of the third ‘Mit Humor’The beauty of the coda gave us a foretaste of what she would treat us to in the sumptuous 15th dance later.
What passion there was in the 4th ‘ungeduldig’ with its almost too serious ending before the capricious meanderings of the 5th.Chloe’s technical prowess allowed her to follow Schumann’s syncopated phrasing in a dance of frenzied activity.The sheer beauty of the 7th was played with a sense of balance that allowed Schumann’s intimate musings space to expand as his heart truly opened.
The infectious dance of the 8th and 9th added great impetus to the final two pieces in this first book.What fun Chloe had in the 12th dance and what glorious Brahmsian sonorities she found in th 13th.The beautiful tenor melody allowed to float on a continuous moving background before the fleeting coda as Schumann asks getting faster and faster as it blows itself out before the greatest of all dances with Schumann’s sublime song Zart und singend.
A remarkable performance of a work that Rubinstein would not play in public because of its quiet ending that according to him was wrong for the end of the first half of a programme that the great pianist would always orchestrate in crescendo.Or the triumphant ending of the final work of a recital !
I can only imagine that he would have brought the same sublime simplicity and beauty of sound to this masterpiece that Chloe did today.
Blessed by the spirits indeed and the only encore possible was the melody from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice in the arrangement by Sgambati played like a celestial angel indeed.
Two works by Chopin completed the programme.
The Fantasie in F minor was played with aristocratic nobility of subtle beauty and free of the rhetoric that this work is so often treated to by lesser hands.
The extraordinary Nocturne in C sharp minor op 27 n.1 ,sister to the famous D flat nocturne op 27 n.2,was played with an almost Debussian sound that made one realise what a visionary genius Chopin was and had he lived as long as Franz Liszt what direction the piano might have taken.
We will of course never know but let us just be grateful for what he was able to leave us in his all too short journey on earth.

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