Piotr Anderszewski at Carnegie Hall – BACH: Partita No. 2 in C minor BWV 826; SCHUMANN: Faschingsschwank aus Wien (Carnival Scenes from Vienna) Op. 26; JANACEK: V mlhách (in the mists); BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110; BARTOK: Three Hungarian Folksongs from the Csik District Sz 35a/BB45b – Virgin Classics 67291-2 (2 CDs priced as one), 42:48, 41.40 ***** [Distr. by EMI]:
This new release captures the young Polish-Hungarian pianist Piotr Anderszewski at a Carnegie Hall recital last December that had the critics competing with each for superlatives to use in their praise. In fact, it is as reported, an extraordinary performance by a courageous young virtuoso who plays as if he had forsaken all for his art.
One can only imagine what it was like being there live, but Virgin’s engineering team has created a recorded experience that has an erotic tactile quality to it that has rarely been heard since the heyday of analogue vinyl.
It’s perfect for Anderszewski who, if the photos in the booklet tell the truth, flashes considerable karma even before he starts to play. The photos show an upright posture and a certain distance from the keyboard. He has the ability to apply with an elegant inevitability of phrasing an enormous range of color and volume over the music’s superstructure without seeming either affected or routine. All the while, he is laying out the music as if it were playing it for the composer.
The booklet’s trendy, film-noir publicity shots of Anderszewski is, to some extent, also how he plays, finding sometimes masochistic pleasures without a surfeit of emotion. Like a few seconds into the finale of Schumann’s “Carnival of Vienna,” when the bass unexpectedly purrs and growls and approaches. Or at the end, when Anderszewski ducks into the endless nightmare of Schumann going mad.
The Janacek, played with a discreet combination of chic and lust, is another in a flood of interest in the composer’s music and in the composer’s larger than life personality and appetite. Anderszewski’s Bach is brilliant in the modern way, gleaming with precision and polish, finding some very appealing spaces in the Partita’s dances, away from all the furor of toccatas and fugues.
And then the Beethoven, a performance of unusual acknowledgement and embrace, exulting in the composer’s triumphant affirmations of life if avoiding just slightly the terrible contradictions of Beethoven’s need to be right. After the titanic internal complexities of Beethoven’s struggle for simplicity, the unique blend of folksong and feeling that is the Bartok encore returns to earth and reality.
— Laurence Vittes