On Monday evening in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Chris Howlett’s Australian International Productions presented Japanese pianist Yu Kosuge in recital to an appreciative audience.
For this reviewer, the most enticing moments came in the dramatic performance of the Chopin “Ocean” Etude from Op 25 (played as an encore) and earlier, on the program, a performance that extracted the beauty and colour of Ravel’s Jeux d’eau. Overall, the program was split into two halves with the first containing sonatas by Scarlatti, Haydn and Beethoven; and in the second, various works by Fauré, Ravel and Liszt.
In the first half, there were delightful and sensitive moments in all of the Scarlatti sonatas (F minor K481 and A Major K24) and the Haydn D Major, HobXVI:42. Kosuge, performing for the first time in this space, would have struggled with the acoustics and, in addition, with the banners all the way up, there was quite an uncomfortably high level of reverberation which didn’t help the clarity of these classical works in the first half. In spite of all this, the Beethoven “Waldstein” was given a dramatic performance with an atmospheric second movement introduction that lead to the main part of the finale that provided plenty of absorbing climaxes and some superb double octave glissandos at the conclusion.
It was hard for much of the audience to warm to the Fauré Barcarolles (Nos 5, 10, 11) quickly enough after the break, before they were over. These rather fleeting works require a great amount of clarity to project not just their surface details but also their deeply veiled emotional core; they are not designed for overly large spaces. The Ravel Jeux d’eauas mentioned before was quite superb and here Kosuge’s natural talent for creating radiant moods and colours at the piano was easier on the ears. These instincts followed her in a performance of Liszt’s “Les jeux d’eau a la Villa d’Este” and while the Liszt arrangement of Wagner’s Liebestod can never fully create the orchestral magic of the original, Kosuge still managed to draw out some achingly beautiful and sensuous moments from this superb arrangement. One is surprised at the power of Wagner’s ideas to impress even in a reduced “monochrome” piano version of the original orchestral setting. Two encores followed with Mozart’s first movement from the Sonata in C Major, K330, played in cheerful contrast to the angst of Wagner’s Liebestod and then the superb Chopin encore as previously mentioned.
These independently presented concerts showcase talent otherwise skipped over by our other major arts organisations. In a city where very often, there are two events going on at the Melbourne Recital Centre on any given day, and in addition to the numerous other performances in suburban venues, there’s certainly no lack of things to do in Melbourne.