Music / CIMF, Concert 12 – “Slava’s Piano”, The Fitters’ Workshop, May 7. Reviewed by CLINTON WHITE.
MAKING his Australian debut, the much-awarded Russian pianist, Vyacheslav Gryaznov (Slava, to his friends), took his audience captive with a program that not only showed off his technical prowess, but also his compositional talent. And his engaging personality as he introduced each half of the program created a friendly and warm connection between audience and artist.
Gryaznov’s performance style is very much no frills. There are no flapping elbows or shrugging shoulders. Nor is there a weaving body or tossing head. He just sat in perfect posture at the beautiful Steinway piano and let his hands do the talking. And talk they did.
The first half of the program was JS Bach – three contrapuncti (VIII, IX and XI) from “The Art of Fugue” BWV 1080, and the “English Suite No 2 in A Minor” BWV 807.
The festival is presenting all the contrapuncti, but because all 14 (one of which is incomplete) are in one key, D-minor, artistic director Roland Peelman has spread them through the program.
What’s interesting about much of Bach’s music is that he gave very little in the way of performance indications – expression and tempi. So, when playing an instrument as expressive as the modern piano, it opens the door to new ideas and approaches as the artist turns Bach’s notes into music.
While keeping his chosen tempi in strict time, Gryaznov otherwise packed the works full of expression and emotion, giving them a character reminiscent of music written in the Romantic period. Soft, gentle beauty would give way to loud, strident drama, and back again. They were thoroughly refreshing and immensely enjoyable.
The second half saw Gryaznov playing his own arrangements of works by his most famous countrymen composers, Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Glinka. All the arrangements had hints of the stylings of other composers. I heard hints of Rachmaninov, Liszt and even Chopin. Above all, they were Gryaznov’s own and he played them brilliantly.
Here is where the Romantic period styles really came into their own. Expression, rubato, emotion and sensitivity were all there, with a good dash of Russian passion thrown in to spice things up even more, and even occasionally to give them some Russian melancholy.
In his arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers”, Gryaznov started off very softly and slowly, with muted tones and simple stylings, slowly building it to a massive finish, with huge chords and unending runs.
One listener described the second half as a series of encore pieces. To some extent they were, but the technical demands were such that they were virtuoso pieces as well. Gryaznov left no-one in any doubt that he is, indeed, a supreme virtuoso pianist and arranger. Certainly the audience thought so, calling him back for two encores to end this hugely entertaining concert.