Flattering Fliter

September 24, 2013 by Fraser Beath McEwing
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The third International Pianists in Recital concert for the year demonstrated Argentinian Ingrid Fliter’s mastery over Haydn, Schubert and Chopin, writes Fraser Beath McEwing.


Ingrid Fliter

Ingrid Fliter

Fliter tackled a demanding program: Haydn’s Sonata in E Minor (Hob 34), Schubert’s Sonata in A (D959) for the first half and Chopin’s 24 preludes for the second.

Fliter’s Haydn was both light and precise. It carried through his touches of humour – an indulgence you can only afford when you have the rest of the music conquered. Fliter went about her work with confidence; always preserving the melodic line and never letting her awesome technique push the music into second place.

Haydn turned out to be a pleasing entree to Schubert’s massive and demanding Sonata in A. It is probable that Schubert knew he was in his last year of life when he wrote it, along with two other sonatas. It conveys outbursts of passion, anger, regret and love, stretching over four movements and taking about 40 minutes to play. Fliter handled it masterfully, giving its diverse elements just the right weight and maintaining unerring tempi. As in her Chopin concerto with the SSO last week, she seemed to create time-space in which to clearly articulate what she wanted us to hear. Nor was she frightened to pause and let silence sign off on one bar before going into the next. This lends a dramatic effect without being gimmicky. She is also a master of pianissimo, enticing her audience forward to hear the note that her finger has just caressed. There is always risk in this, one has to say. One treble note she played might have reached the front row but it had died before it could rise to my perch in the upper pews.

With Haydn and Schubert tucked triumphantly into bed, it was time to hear Fliter tackle a different breed of monster: the complete Chopin 24 preludes. This was another 40 minute stint, but one which was greatly anticipated, since Fliter has built her reputation largely on Chopin.

Fraser Beath McEwing

Fraser Beath McEwing

While most preludes are, by definition, a warm-up to something greater, Chopin turned this group into stand-alone pieces. To me, they are a Chopin degustation, covering most of the flavours that we love in his music as a whole.

Most pianists in recital make a selection from the 24, thus avoiding those that can trap them. But Fliter took them all head-on, beginning with the C major and then chronologically going through every major and minor key, linked by key signatures. Played in this order, they provide a satisfying rickrack of fast and slow pieces.

From number one, it was obvious that we weren’t going to get standard fare Chopin preludes. Fliter sees most of them differently to the ‘accepted’ interpretations and, while you might argue personal choices, it makes for arresting listening. And behind them, that blistering technique was on tap to carry Fliter’s ideas into the air. It was only towards the end of the 24 that fatigue began to creep in, showing a little more reliance on the sustaining pedal which made the final explosions of sound just a little muddy.

But this is what makes a recital so appealing. It is a tightrope walk without a safety net. A hall-full of critics (or in this case nearer half full, more’s the pity) are baying for perfection but knowing that is not possible. Ingrid Fliter played a superb recital in the true spirit of the art form.

Fraser Beath McEwing is an accomplished pianist and commentator on classical music performance and is a founding member of The theme & Variations Foundation Advisory Board which provides assistance to talented young Australian pianists. His professional background is in journalism, editing and publishing. He is also the author of three novels.He is a Governor of the Sir Moses Montefiore Home.


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