Heartland of the Romantic Piano Repertoire – Michael Endres at Waikanae

Michael Endres (piano)

SCHUBERT Drei Klavierstück, D 946

LISZT Rhapsodie Espagnole, S 254

SCHUMANN Kreisleriana, Opus 16

Memorial Hall, Waikanae

Sunday 18th  September 2022

A solo piano recital featuring the heartland of the romantic piano repertoire, Schubert, Liszt, Schumann, is very rare indeed in Wellington. International luminaries flit in occasionally, play a concerto with an orchestra and flit our again, and the solid works that were once the rock foundation of piano recitals are just no longer heard. We must therefore be grateful to the organizers of the Waikanae Music Society for engaging Michael Endres for this recital. We in Wellington have not had the opportunity to hear him recently, though, going through the reviews on Middle C, I see that he has played in Waikanae a number of times over the years. Part of the problem is, of course, that we don’t have a suitable hall in Wellington at present, nor a piano that can compare with Waikanae’s magnificent Fazioli.

Michael Endres has world-wide reputation, has made a number of recordings, and a range of his concerts and recordings can be accessed on YouTube, and he has made the very sensible decision to move to Christchurch.

He started this recital with Schubert’s Drei Klavierstücke (Three Piano Pieces). Schubert wrote this in the last year of his all too short life, a year in which he wrote some of his greatest works including some of his monumental sonatas. This, however is a work on a much more modest scale. It is like a set of three Impromptus, and it is the more personal, moving for that. Endres brought out its understated lyrical charm and its sometimes innocent child-like quality. He brought out the contrasts, the drama and the gentle melodies. His sensitive playing did justice to the music, that flowed like songs, much like Schubert’s accompaniments to his songs, and underlying it all was a touch of nostalgia, very much part of this music.

Schubert was followed by Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole. This was a striking contrast to the self-effacing modest mood of the Schubert work. Liszt’s piece is based on two Spanish dances that he had heard during the time he had spent in Spain and Portugal in 1845, La Folia de Espagnol and Jota, It is a dazzling bravura work. Endres did justice to the virtuosity of the piece. He exercised great control, while bringing out the elements of sheer fun. He let the music breath, playing it with natural fluency, straight from the heart.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Schumann, the central figure of romantic music. It started with Kreisleriana, Opus 16, It is a series of eight contrasting fantasy-like pieces in which Schumann attempted to encapsulate the constant swings of moods of Kappellmeister Kreisler, a character in E. T. A. Hoffman’s novel, something that must have been close to Schumann’s heart. He wrote these pieces in the course of just four days in 1838. Hoffman’s Kreisler was an eccentric musician at odds with the world around him, half crazed and intensely passionate. This might have meant something very personal for him with his own issues of mental balance. In the eight short pieces you hear the full gamut of moods and passions, but you also hear the power and musical resources of the piano. It is one of Schumann’s most popular piano pieces, and one is unlikely to ever hear a better performance of it then Endre’s, with its subtlety and sensitivity to the range of moods.

The concert ended with transcriptions of two of Schumann’s songs,  firstly Du bist wie eine Blume (You are like a flower), transcribed by Clara Schumann, and,Frülingnacht (Spring Night),  transcribed by Liszt. 

For an encore Endres played a charming little piece Pensée Fugitive by Smetana.  It was a most satisfying and enjoyable concert. Come back again Michael Endres!

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