A TRIBUTE TO THE PIANO • Rexa Han (pn) • VICTOR ELMALEH COLLECTION 102 (72:05)
BACH English Suite No. 6 in d. CHOPIN Sonata No. 2 in b?. GRANADOS El Amor y la Muerte. STRAVINSKY Etude in F?, op. 7/4. LISZT Read more class="ARIAL12i">Rigoletto paraphrase (“Bella figlia dell’amore.”) Piano piece in A?, S 189a. MOSZKOWSKI Caprice Espagnol, op. 37
This, the debut recital of young pianist Rexa Han, marks an auspicious start to a promising recording career. Her approach to Bach’s Sixth English Suite is typical of her playing in this recital: the lines flowing and elegant, yet constantly energized by subtle yet evident inflections of rhythm that move each section forward. I’d have to say that it’s the finest version I’ve ever heard, by anyone. Yet good as it is, it almost sounds like a warm-up to the Chopin sonata. Her performances of the first and third movements are brisk and lively, tightly structured and almost rigorous in the rhythmic flow, much like Dinu Lipatti’s performance of the complementary sonata no. 3. Yet her performance of the famed “Funeral March” in the third movement has all the requisite feeling. In the liner notes, Han states that it took “months to find the tempo that I believed in. In the trio of the March, I never worked harder to achieve the sound I was after—not the usual singing tone, but a sound in the distance.” She certainly succeeded.
Her performance of the Granados piece is likewise quite individual, emphasizing its Spanish dance rhythms rather than the “Romantic atmosphere” that most other pianists seek. Perhaps her approach to this work, as in the Chopin, was somewhat colored by a reluctance to overuse the pedal. Following this is a particularly brilliant performance of the Stravinsky Etude, which she says she has been playing as an encore for several years now.
In such an otherwise high-minded recital, I wondered about the inclusion of Liszt’s pianistic paraphrase of the Rigoletto quartet. This is almost the opposite kind of music to the rest of her recital, a lightweight dazzler. Although she plays it very well it still seems an unusual choice. Much finer as music is the Liszt Klavierstücke in A?, an overlooked gem which Han brings to life with a light and magical touch. The constantly shifting harmonies put me in mind of Debussy or early Scriabin.
Han’s recital concludes with Moszkowski’s Caprice Espagnol which was, as she points out, a favorite piece of Josef Hofmann. Here is virtuosity allied with a creative musical line, a combination of the two elements that Han does so very well. Moreover, her performance has tremendous élan; it sounds as if she is having a ball playing it. Overall, then, a very impressive first outing for this gifted pianist. I look forward to hearing more of her in other repertoire as her career progresses.