Konstanze Eickhorst – recital from Vienna

New Zealand School of Music

Mozart: Sonata in A minor, K.310 (allegro maestoso; andante cantabile con espressione; presto

Schubert: Fantasy in C, Op.15 (D.760) “Wanderer” (allegro con fuoco; adagio; presto; allegro, played without a break)

Mozart: Fantasia in C minor, K.475

Schubert: Sonata in C minor, D.958 (allegro; adagio; menuetto: allegro; allegro)

Konstanze Eickhorst

Adam Concert Room

Thursday, 18 April 2013 at 7.30pm

Recitals by visiting instrumentalists are not nearly as frequent as they were when the old Concert Section of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation promoted recitals by artists who were here to play concertos with the Symphony Orchestra.  So it is gratifying that the New Zealand School of  Music has taken up some of the slack in Wellington by bringing overseas musicians to conduct master classes for the students and perform for the public.

Konstanze Eickhorst was here in Wellington both to give a master class and to perform a recital (and she has a cellist sister here), but her principal occupation will be to play in the New Zealand International Piano Festival, in Auckland.

Her all-Viennese programme was different from the typical piano recital programme that begins with Bach and ends with a contemporary composition.

The Adam Concert Room was virtually full.  A pleasing feature was that the lights were left on, so that it was easy for audience members to read the notes and check the tempo designations for the movements.  Other promoters, please note!  It is a strange New Zealand aberration to lower the lights at concerts, so that the programme the punter has just bought cannot be read in the auditorium.  A recital, particularly, is not a stage spectacle, so there is no need for the lights to be lowered.

The opening Mozart sonata began with a bold attack.  I noted what very flexible fingers, hands, wrists and elbows Eickhorst possesses.  Of course, the differing kind of concert dress worn by male versus female artists makes this easier to observe in the case of the latter.

I would have liked a slightly gentler approach to Mozart, remembering the pianos of his period.  The treble of the piano had my ears ringing at times.   However, the pianist did vary the tone and touch of her playing.  The problem is the small size of the venue and the bright, reflective, varnished wooden floor; performers need to take this into account.  The brittle, hard-edged sound was commented (without any remark from me) by my neighbour at the concert.

The programme notes spoke of the suspensions ‘that wail unhappily throughout’ in the first movement; indeed they were most apparent.  This sonata has much depth, and although a relatively early one, shows emotional and musical profundity not always true of the later ones.

The slow movement featured a singing melody, and the playing truly lived up to the composer’s designation for it.  Phrasing was superb and there were appropriate rubatos.  The third movement was almost playful the speed demonstrated Eickhorst’s sturdy technique.

Of all Schubert’s compositions for piano, the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy is one of the longest and most demanding technically.  As the programme note said “[it] is Schubert’s most challenging and flamboyant composition for the piano.”  Following the busy opening movement, we were straight into the slow movement, which is based on Schubert’s song of the same name.  The movement proceeds as variations on the song’s theme.  The opening was very telling, pensive, inward, and expressive.  The slightly ominous undertone and a furious middle section rounded out a highly varied and interesting movement.

What a complete change of mood there was for the scherzo!  The emphasis here was on rhythm.  The pianist exhibited fantastic finger-work in the fast figures.  There were some wonderful sonorities in the final movement and the pianissimo passage was played with great feeling, while the last section was sheer bravura.

I found the first movement somewhat over-pedalled at times, and some chords hit a little too hard for this small, very resonant auditorium.  Nevertheless, this was a tour de force indeed.  It was a virtuosic performance of this showpiece, by a formidable pianist.  A little memory lapse here and one in the Mozart hardly mattered in the midst of such prodigious feats as these.

Back to Mozart after the interval, and one of his three Fantasias.  It is notable that there were only two composers represented in the recital, yet we were treated to a great variety of music.

A slightly curious comment in the notes implied that this work and the composer’s C minor sonata, published together with the same opus number, had also the same Köchel number, but this piece is K.475 while the sonata is K.457.

This is a quite gorgeous piece of music, and I found the playing more to my taste than that of the Schubert Fantasy.  There was lovely variation of touch and subtle changes of dynamics; in my view, more true resonance is obtained from the piano, as opposed to getting it from the room, when the playing is not too loud.  Not that this was a gentle, relaxing piece; it, like the other works on the programme had changes of character, and stormy passages.  Again, the character was not such that one normally associates with Mozart’s piano music.

Schubert’s sonata in C minor, another lengthy work, was striking in its shifting keys and switches between lyrical passages and more dynamic, declamatory ones.  The prestidigitation required to obtain these dramatic contrasts of tone and texture was remarkable.

In the adagio, the lines were sometimes muddled a little by the pedal again.  Elsewhere there was considerable clarity and weight.  The third movement was unusual for a minuet, with its interruptions.  The finale was again a technically demanding movement; it returned to the lyrical before the end, in episodes.

Although the programme was by well-known composers, the music played was not ‘run-of-the-mill’, and did not conform to what one might think of as typical of these composers.  This made it interesting, and despite my quibbles, it was superb recital of relatively little-heard music of great brilliance, drama and passion, played by a pianist with formidable skills.  Apart from anything else, the recital demanded great stamina on the part of the pianist.

It was refreshing to find that Eickhorst did not feel it necessary to sweeten the programme with some lighter works or encores.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *