Review: ‘Prodigious’ Cook honours Sitsky informally

music

Adam Cook celebrates Larry Sitsky 80

ANU School of Music

29th May 2014

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

IT was a charming gesture by pianist Adam Cook to honour the 80th birthday of his teacher and mentor, Larry Sitsky, with this recital.

Adam Cook, photo Peter Hislop

Adam Cook, photo Peter Hislop

Although Sitsky’s actual birthday doesn’t occur until September, Cook took advantage of a short window of opportunity between Sitsky’s return to Canberra from overseas and his own departure for further studies in Paris to present the concert.

The program commenced with an assured performance of a suite of six Romanian folk dances, composed by Bela Bartok in 1915. Prior to playing them, Cook provided some background to each of the dances and their adaptation by Bartok. The explanation actually took more time than the dances themselves, as the suite, which ends with a dazzling “fast dance”, took only around five minutes to perform.

Three of the notoriously difficult Debussy preludes, also composed in 1915, provided Cook with the perfect vehicles to further demonstrate his virtuosity and command of technique. His performance of them was as impressive as it was incisive.

The final work was Larry Sitsky’s astonishing “Sonata No. 2 for Piano” composed in 2010 especially for Cook. A big, muscular, demanding and entertaining work, it provides a perfect showcase for Cook’s prodigious talent, and was given a virtuosic performance by him, at times pounding the keyboard with closed fists, or the heels of his hands, to satisfy the demands of the music and extract the affects required. This stunning work will no doubt serve Cook well as a signature work for his repertoire, as he competes for attention on the world stage.

Responding to the recital, the guest of honour, Larry Sitsky, made some erudite remarks about the difficulties facing young musicians transitioning from student to professional musician. Hopefully, Cook will take the hint and give some attention to polishing his presentational skills, because in this regard, his performance was disappointing.

At one stage he mentioned that he intended this recital to be informal. However, “informal” doesn’t preclude polish, particularly when his audience are paying for the privilege of attending. Such details as ensuring that the stage is properly set, instead of cluttered with unused instruments as it was on this occasion; checking you know how to use the microphone properly so that your remarks can be understood, and avoiding such discourtesies as delaying the start time of the recital considerably to accommodate late arriving friends, when the rest of your large audience, including the guest of honour, have made the effort to be seated by the advertised start time, may prove as important to an emerging artist as technical brilliance in ensuring career success.

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