Pavle Krstic flew in from Salzburg invited by the Keyboard Trust to play at Steinway Hall in London.
Three sonatas on the programme by Beethoven,Chopin and an early Sonata by Stravinsky that the composer had hoped had been destroyed by the regime when he left his homeland in 1914.
Two great works,one by Beethoven with his ‘quasi una fantasia’companion to the renowned ‘Moonlight’Sonata and Chopin’s B flat minor ‘Funeral March’Sonata.
Strange no Mozart,considering that Pavle for the past ten years has been resident in Salzburg where he has been in the class of Pavel Gililov.
Only a Sonata that the composer Stravinsky was horrified to see had survived the revolution!
As Pavle explained ,in his very informed and enjoyable conversation with Elena Vorotko,he chose this early unknown Stravinsky because after the success of his Chopin CD recorded last year in Verona he had been persuaded to record the complete piano works of a composer who much to his friend Rubinstein’s consternation thought of the piano as a percussive instrument!
Rubinstein had commissioned his great friend Stravinsky to write a piano piece for him.’Piano rag music’ duly arrived on his doorstep but it was such an ungrateful piece that he refused to play in public so Stravinsky dedicated his Petrouchka suite to him that was so technically challenging Rubinstein asked permission to make his own arrangements.
Such a free arrangement that Rubinstein kept it only for the concert hall and not encapsulated on record.
A pirate recording has survived though from his historic ten Carnegie Hall recitals the proceeds of which he gave to ten charities to thank America for befriending and supporting him during his long career.
Rubinstein would have loved this early sonata that when Pavle was rehearsing I thought was some Godowsky type show piece that he intended to astonish us with after the three sonatas on the official programme .
An astonishing funabulistic show piece with a melodic effusion Hollywood style.
What a shock to learn that it was the Stravinsky sonata!
It certainly was not the one I was expecting that I had been forced to learn as a student to play to Nadia Boulanger.A later work of Stravinsky’s rather impersonal barren stile of neo classicism ?!
This youthful work Pavle played with astonishing clarity and bravura that with some judicious cuts could grace the concert hall as a virtuoso encore piece.
It was interesting after hearing his very musicianly account of the Chopin Sonata to learn that he was using the new recommended Ekier edition where the question of the first movement repeat was swiftly resolved.
Not only was it his brilliant playing but also his very eloquent explanation that made a very persuasive case for an edition that my generation still find rather clinical and hard to accept compared to the old Paderewski Edition which is now by the Chopin National Edition to be considered obsolete!
An exemplary account of Beethoven’s Sonata op 27 n.1 demonstrated his musical pedigree and technical mastery on a magnificent Steinway D piano that could happily grace any of the great concert halls of the world.
Halls of much bigger dimension than the relatively small space available for recitals at Steinways .A magnificent instrument for which we can only be immensely grateful to Steinways allowing young artists of the calibre of Pavle an important platform in central London.Sound though needs space to travel to be able to find that kaleidoscope of colours and chiaroscuro that the Steinway for generations has allowed the greatest artists to share with the world.
We are left to imagine what other wonders Pavle could have discovered but as Fou Ts’ong so wisely said it is much easier to be intimate in a large space than in a small one.
Pavle after great insistence from a full hall astonished us even further with a breathtaking account of Rachmaninov’s fourth of the Moments Musicaux.
Musicianship,virtuosity and sumptuous sound combined to give a performance of exhilaration and brilliance.
The only thing to do after a performance like that was to share a cup of champagne with the artist in the beautiful new space that Steinways have created here in the centre of London.