Music / “Death and the Maiden”, Alina Ibragimova and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. At Llewellyn Concert Hall, March 17. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY
CHOPIN’S 208th birthday was a memorable one for everyone who attended the Friends of Chopin Australia concert.
Japanese pianist, Kotaro Nagano, presented a special program of pieces composed in 1810, the year of Chopin’s birth, followed by all of Chopin’s impromptus and then the “Polonaise-Fantasy”, one of Chopin’s greatest works.
In addition, the concert was played on one of the ANU School of Music’s instruments from their Historic Keyboard Collection, an 1847 Pleyel. This was Chopin’s preferred make of piano. With 83 narrower keys instead of the modern number of 88 and other differences, it would take some adjustment for a pianist to get used to playing it. Kotaro Nagano produced a beautiful sound from the instrument.
Kotaro Nagano won first prize at the Australian International Chopin Piano Competition in 2014. He has won numerous prizes in Taiwan, Poland and Japan and has played with many symphony orchestras internationally.
It was an inspired idea to present works from 1810 by composers who likely had an influence on Chopin’s own works. Four items by Dussek, Beethoven, Hummel and Kuhlau made up the first half of the program. They were all quite different from each other and the most well-known was Beethoven’s “Für Elise”. Each work was played with great feeling and precision.
The second half of the program began with Chopin’s four impromptus. The second Impromptu in F sharp major was especially well played. Kotaro Nagano gave it a restrained but edgy emotional quality that was exciting to listen to. The well-known Impromptu in C sharp minor was beautifully played.
The final work presented, Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantasy in A flat minor, is a colourful and varied work that really demonstrated Kotaro Nagano’s mastery of the keyboard. It was a perfect finale for the program.
We were then treated to three encores by this excellent musician and, with the cake and champagne served at the interval, it proved to be a memorable birthday celebration.