domingo, 4 de octubre de 2009

Pianist Daniel del Pino plays in La Nucia

A few days ago I wrote a piece about a Russian pianist who successfully mixed so-called ‘classical’ music with jazz on the same programme. In her case, it was one half of each, half great Romantics and half jazz standards plus her own compositions. I could not have predicted that soon I would be reviewing a work by a Russian composer who does much the same thing, but at the same time!

Daniel del Pino is a fine, even great pianist, known throughout Spain and in concert halls across the world. I have heard recitals by him at least once a year for the last six years or so. Certainly one thing he always delivers is hard work, his own, that is, because his performances are nothing less than a complete delight from beginning to end. But there’s no opening Haydn Sonata followed by Mozartian gentility for Daniel del Pino. His programmes are never less than demanding and his most recent recital in La Nucia’s Auditori de la Mediterrània, organised by Los Amigos de la Musica de la Marina Baixa, was no exception. On reading the list of works in prospect on this occasion, however, something immediately stood out. There was a composer I had never heard of – and that’s quite a rare occurrence these days!

Daniel began with a finger loosener. In his case this meant six of Rachmaninov’s Opus 39 Etudes Tableaux! If he had played nothing else all night, I would have gone home in bliss. Opus 39 number 5 in E flat minor is a personal favourite and in Daniel del Pino’s hands the exquisite shape of the music, a complex interaction between three musical arguments, was close to sublime. In all, Opus 39 numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 might, for many pianists, have formed a grand finale. For Daniel del Pino, they were openers.

He followed this with two pieces by Granados, both Goyescas, El Pelele and Quejas, o Maja y el Ruiseñor. In many ways I find the idioms of Rachmaninov and Granados similar, in that they were both late Romantics, celebrants of the luscious, the personal, the individual and the national. In Rachmaninov’s case, it’s usually the pathos that dominates. In Granados, it’s the sunshine, dance and display, but mingled with some absurdity. Daniel del Pino was able to switch his interpretive landscape effortlessly to bring out the more impressionistic subtleties of Granados. This is music for which he clearly has more than mere feeling.

His final piece was a rousing finale in the form of Liszt’s Spanish Rhapsody. Alongside memories of the Granados, this was musical tourism, but cultural tourism at worst! Showpiece it may be, but it is harmonically and structurally inventive, so it is musically satisfying as well as being a pyrotechnic display. As an encore he chose a simple – not so simple! – study by Mendelssohn.

I have, of course, missed something out! Between the Granados and the Liszt, Daniel del Pino presented the eight Concert Studies Opus 40 of Nikolai Kapustin. Now I can hear the concert goers of western Europe saying, “Who?” in concert. In over forty years of listening to music, I have never encountered the name … I think … I have vague recollections of a piece for Jazz Big Band being played on the BBC Third Programme’s Music In Our Time in the mid-1960s. I missed the name of the composer, but now I think I know it.

Daniel del Pino introduced the music to his audience before playing it. He told us that Kapustin was Russian, born in 1937, and composed in a pianistic tradition he inherited from Rachmaninov, but placed his thematic and rhythmic material firmly in the idiom of jazz.

I have expressed my opinion of ‘crossover’ music before. Usually the result is puerile from the point of view of expression and often mundane in terms excitement and performance. Via the scored and highly pianistic music of Kapustin, we heard something that was definitely not crossover.

The music was precisely scored and perhaps there was an arpeggio too far here and there. But while it was clearly rooted in the harmonic language of Rachmaninov and even Scriabin, the material and its treatment were pure bee-bop. Though it may have lacked an improvisatory edge – it seems that Kapustin himself does not claim that he scores improvisations – the music still had the feeling of jazz, but was presented in a structure that revealed itself and engaged. These eight pieces proved to be a major work and technically at least were perhaps the most demanding part of a thoroughly demanding programme.

Daniel del Pino’s recital was the work of a complete artist. He can surprise as well as deliver amazing technique alongside superb interpretation and musical sensibility. Hear him play. You will not be disappointed.

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