IVAN MORAVEC—LIVE IN BRUSSELS • Ivan Moravec (pn) • SUPRAPHON 4004 (72:14) Live: Brussels 2/4 & 11/7/1983
BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata: No. 15, “Pastoral.” BRAHMS Intermezzos: in a, op. 116/2; in A, op. 118/2. Capriccio in b, op. 76/2Read more class="ARIAL12b">. Rhapsody in g, op. 79/2. CHOPIN Nocturnes: in B, op. 32/1; in c?, op. 27/1. Mazurkas: in a, op. 17/4; in c?, op. 50/3. Scherzo No. 1 in b
If there is one pianist alive today who can be considered a member of the pantheon of golden-age pianists, it is, in my opinion, Ivan Moravec. A musician capable of conjuring up magical sounds from the instrument, and as comfortable and stylish in Beethoven and Mozart as in Chopin and Debussy, Moravec is here featured in a live recital from 1983.
Moravec begins this recital with the Beethoven Sonata in D, op. 28. Nicknamed the “Pastoral” because of the idyllic character of the first and last movements, it is precisely this mood that is so difficult to capture in the first movement because of the tempo that one must have from the onset. Moravec is able to capture this mood beautifully by choosing a tempo that allows the movement to flow without ever becoming stagnant, something that Grigory Sokolov—one of the most interesting of all pianists alive today—in his DVD recording “Live in Paris” is not as successful at because of the sluggish tempo that he chooses. The Andante is again well paced and characterized by a beautiful pizzicato effect in the left hand. The middle section of the movement is lively and well accented, but not overly so, as some interpreters of Beethoven are prone to make it. The changes in articulation are closely observed and the sweep of the movement is continuous. The Scherzo, a lively Allegro vivace, is short and quirky, ending abruptly and leading into the last movement Rondo. Here again many pianists choose a less driven tempo (the tempo indication is Allegro ma non troppo) because of the effect they wish to produce at the end of the movement. Moravec, though, playing in a 6/8 meter, chooses a lively enough pace. He is able once again to show the differences in sonority and articulation beautifully, as this movement demands. The closing coda is played with verve. This is one of the best overall performances of this work that I have encountered.
Moravec begins the Brahms grouping with the Intermezzo in A Minor, op. 116/2 (mislabeled on the program as 118/1). His mastery of dynamic shading is apparent even in the first four bars. He begins piano, sotto voce; by the end he has achieved a mezza voce pianissimo. It’s a small effect, but it’s thrilling. The Capriccio is equally well played. The offbeat accents have just the right amount of punch in them to demonstrate the quirky character of the piece. The quiet ending leads right into the Intermezzo in A. It is programmed well: the effect is one of calm repose after the storm. The legato touches and shifting voices are deftly brought out, and the ending is skillfully achieved. Once again, Moravec’s ability at dynamic nuance is in evidence. The Rhapsody, though well played, is my least favorite of the Brahms performances. I like better a more gritty and dynamic performance. Perhaps here Moravec’s beautiful tone is a hindrance in the heavier sections, and the overall tempo a bit fast.
There is no better advocate for Chopin alive today than Moravec. The Nocturne in B is one of the best performances of the work that I have heard—so well played in fact, that it made me wish that he had continued, and played all of these small masterpieces. Everything that has been said about his playing is especially evident in this performance. The other small pieces are well done, so much so that the audience begins clapping after the second mazurka’s loud ending. The Scherzo has a bit more fire than I thought he would give after listening to the Brahms, and makes a wonderful conclusion to an already fabulous recital.
The sound is a bit distant, that of the recording in a large hall. The live atmosphere, however, is almost imperceptible, as the audience dutifully pays their respects in almost pristine silence (mostly a few coughs in the slow part of the Scherzo). This is one CD that I would rank as a must-have for anyone who is either a fan of Moravec or who wants a first-rate performance of the Beethoven Sonata and the Chopin nocturnes. The recital is masterful, and the recording is well worth having even if one already has other Moravec recordings of the same repertoire.