Moravec walked on stage to face a packed QEH and sat down to play Schumann's
'Kinderszenen'. Without playing a note, he got up and walked off again.
Confusion reigned, the audience conjectured ... until a voice over the
speakers informed us that Mr Moravec had a nosebleed and would continue
as soon as possible.
The delayed concert indeed finally got
underway and was without a doubt worth the wait. But why did the QEH
staff not turn the speaker off? (there was a conspicuous hiss from the
speaker to my left which, once I had noticed it, was difficult to dismiss).
There are few more tender ways to open
a concert than with Schumann's 'Kinderszenen'. Moravec's recording of
this piece for Supraphon (SU3508-2) provides much to admire, but also
includes its fair share of over-emphases. Live, one is more aware of
the weight of Moravec's experience: what might sound laboured in the
sterile recording studio, emerges as clear and convincing in the concert
hall. 'Traumerei' was a highlight, unaffected yet warm and touching.
With the exception of the very opening (where Moravec sounded as if
he were playing himself in to the piece), control was all, the technique
utterly subservient to the musical conception.
Moravec's Chopin was hardly less impressive.
The F minor 'Fantaisie' is a tough piece to bring off, but Moravec penetrated
to the heart of the music. The opening was grand, the tone appropriately
sonorous. There was no doubting Moravec's virtuosity here, but it was
his tonal variety which impressed most, particularly a sparing but impressive
use of thinning the tone to a half-voice. The F minor Ballade showed
the same traits, reminding the listener once more of Moravec's liquid
A selection of four of Brahms' piano
pieces launched the second half (with no announcement that they would
be played in a different order from that printed in the programme).
They proved a well-contrasted group: the A major Intermezzo, Op. 118
No. 2 was perhaps more volatile than is often the case, but this only
shed new light on it. The Capriccio in B minor, Op.76 No. 2 was playful;
the B flat minor Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 2 contained some chording of
outstanding beauty; and the G minor Rhapsody, Op. 79 No. 2 was strong
and muscular. A thread of warmth and richness ran through all these
Debussy's 'Pour le Piano' made an ideal
contrast. Moravec declined to descend into mere washes of sound, instead
articulating clearly and displaying the pedal technique of a master.
It was particularly interesting to hear pre-echoes of Messiaen in the
quasi-ecstatic feeling he projected in some chordal sequences.
The encores provided yet further highlights:
an intimate, scaled-down Chopin Mazurka led to a Polka by Smetana (we
really should hear more of this composer's piano music) and finally,
'Serenade for a doll' from Debussy's 'Children's Corner'.