Sunday, May 07, 2006

Music Review: Rushing though the Ballades

Jonathan Gilad is a five-tool concert pianist. He has technique, tone, musicality, the willingness to take risks, and the stage presence to make himself interesting. The first half of Mr. Gilad's program at Washington Irving High School, consisting of Beethoven's energetic and difficult C major Sonata, Opus 2, number 3 and Prokofiev's equally energetic and difficult 2nd Sonata, established, made his pianistic skills clear. Mr. Gilad is willing to push tempos as far as they can be pushed, and this made for a particularly exciting opening to the Beethoven and conclusion to the Prokofiev. He showed off his musical qualities in the Andante of the Prokofiev.

Knowing that this young pianist possessed these hallmarks of pianism made the second half of the program, the four ballades of Chopin, all the more frustrating. Each tool present in the first half deserted Mr. Gilad in second, a mess of reckless, rushed banging that served neither Chopin nor Mr. Gilad well.

The Ballades are the crowns of Chopin's oeuvre. They are works of great contrast and feeling. Mr. Gilad's rushed, monochromatic performances, sans rubato, seemingly failed to grasp any of the emotion and drama that runs through these works. That he was rewarded with hearty applause seems, unfortunately, to prove only that very fast playing will win over an audience.

This critic admires reckless abandon when it heightens the drama of the piece of music, even if the pianist in question drops a few notes along the way. (The best example, to my mind, is the coda of Beethoven's Appasionata Sonata as played by Arthur Rubinstein). Reckless abandon that is merely reckless is unmusical. And though Mr. Gilad has a good technique, he does not have the super-duper technique necessary to play so fast without mistakes, nor the sophistication to do so with musical ideas intact.

Mr. Gilad has the tools for a good career. But if he rushes like he did Saturday night, he will not have the chance to make his case.


At 3:01 PM, Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

You do realize that nobody except musical critics can tell the difference, right? : )


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