After a 10-year absence, Piotr Anderszewski returned to the Miami International Piano Festival Thursday night in a program of works by Bach and Schumann at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. Anderszewski’s recitals were memorable highlights of the festival’s early years. Despite a busy schedule of international appearances, his playing and musicianship have only grown in stature.
Anderszewski brings a remarkably secure technique and keen musical intelligence to each work he plays. Every bar is precisely weighted, the tempos and phrasing of individual movements carefully interrelated. For Anderszewski, the score’s musical architecture is paramount. Nuances and stylistic niceties are elements of a broader interpretive statement.
The music of Bach has long been an Anderszewski specialty. Two contrasting suites bookended the concert. The Overture in the French Style is Bach’s tribute to the music of such French keyboard masters as Couperin. Anderszewski’s performance was forthrightly pianistic. Except for a few details, he did not attempt to imitate the registrations of the harpsichord, the instrument for which Bach conceived the score.
The slow introduction was properly grave without becoming ponderous, the following Allegro fleet and light. Contrapuntal voices were brought forward, the lines exceptionally clear. Anderszewski was not afraid to play at extremes of volume, taking the big moments at full throttle while some quiet sections were unusually soft, all evenly controlled.
The dance movements were infused with charm, the rhythms springy and vigorous. Anderszewski’s reading of the Sarabande was deeply poetic. While playing the solemn melodies at a measured pace, his touch was sensitive, the musical pulse flowing.
Bach’s English Suite, which closed the program, is less ornate, and Anderszewski offered a spirited reading replete with insightful details. The opening Prelude was assayed at a brisk clip but infused with a playful sensibility. He lightly traced the melody of the Allemande and captured the slightly quirky character of the Courante. Again it was the Sarabande that stood out. Bringing gravitas to the melodic lines in the right hand, Anderszewski drew out the music’s austere textures. Taken at a headlong clip, the final Gigue was definitely not for dancing.
While Anderszewski’s Bach playing is a known quantity, his Schumann was revelatory. He offered a large-scaled, boldly romantic reading of the rarely played Novelette No. 8. There was stormy passion and power in the opening section, the huge mood swings deftly conveyed. Dance sections were incisively shaped and inflected with verve.
In lesser hands, the Fantasy in C Major can seem tedious, but Anderszewski boldly projected the chromaticism of the opening bars, the keyboard-spanning octaves brilliantly executed. The martial theme of the second movement was assayed at a moderate pace, the emphatic syncopations leavened by almost song like moments of calm.
Switching gears, the score’s introspective final section was filled with supple lyricism, at times sounding almost like Chopin. So solid was Anderszewski’s technique that he drew many gradations of softness from the keyboard, with a wonderfully varied dynamic and color palette. Building inexorably to a climax, the final bars faded away to stillness. More than merely a superbly gifted pianist, Anderszewski is an artist and interpreter on the highest level.
The concert was a benefit for sarcoma cancer research and a tribute to Dr. H. Thomas Temple, a University of Miami medical faculty member and researcher-specialist on this rare form of cancer that attacks children and young people.
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