JWR Articles: Live Event - Keyboard Contemplations (Featured performer: Adam György) - July 26, 2010

Keyboard Contemplations

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Much to contemplate and, perhaps, rethink

For just over an hour when many spend their contemplative time in worship, early-morning music lovers had the opportunity of reflecting on the current state of Adam György’s art.

The new venue—an oasis of refuge in Canada’s national cemetery (whose population president Grete Hale stated as “75,000 Canadians; 2,500 soldiers”)—featured a newly donated Yamaha grand which, marvellously, was to have its maiden public voyage guided by the nimble hands of a Steinway Artist: artistic-branding crossover of the highest order!

At twenty-seven years-of-age and with the de rigueur Carnegie Hall début (2008) already under his belt, the overall skill sets and insights of this engaging young man will need to be ramped up considerably if he is to spend the rest of his career performing on the world’s most demanding, resplendent and unforgiving stages.

As a self-proclaimed devotee of improvisation, Gyorgy’s own creations in that vein, while somewhat inventive, were so overflowing with pastel that just the hint of a bold primary was soon longed for in the early going.

The music was all dreamed up with nowhere to go—a welcome change at first, but the sameness soon drove the patrons into the festival’s prospectus to make or recall their next choices. The concert-closing “Wedding March” (Felix Mendelssohn/Franz Liszt/Vladimir Horowitz/Adam György—like a lot of films: too many writers spoil the continuity) might well be re-thought in that key position. The familiar—it seems so redundant to say—is always appreciated, but even György’s penchant for hitting unexpected notes at vital melodic moments and harmonic junctures still threw the audience to its feet, yet left some ears uncomfortably dismayed.

With so many storied recordings of the classical era, piano sonata repertoire available everywhere (and past performances patiently awaiting recall in preferred memory), any serious pianist now before the public must face the Herculean task of endless hours of preparation in hopes of approaching much less contributing even a bar of fresh thought to the canon; never mind surpassing previous masters.

Even having so much technique in every finger, György needs to probe much, much deeper into the details and find a way to the fundamental component that allows our best artists to unlock the magic behind every bar. That being, of course, security.

All Mozartean players must have at their constant beck and call flawless rhythm, deceptive ease of rendering ornamentation/passagework, a wide variety of touch, tone and length (less is always more with staccati: let the music lead rather than the ego of sound) as the minimal basis of their craft even before the too-frequently written but never realized harmonic consequences and structure are painstakingly kneaded into the mix.

Just six days ago in Niagara-on-the-Lake (Music Niagara’s hugely popular “Young Virtuosos” series), eleven-year-old Annie Zhou tackled the same Chopin Ballade (No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23). More secure with the incredibly complex technical hurdles, she, most understandably, hasn’t yet lived long enough to deliver the emotional subtext that the likes of Murray Perahia (cross-reference below) have plumbed for decades.

When Gyorgy is able to put his hands on surety autopilot and delve further into the heart, his Romantic metamorphosis may well begin.

Similarly, the compositional histrionics (mystically subdued La Campanella; overtly in-your-face Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2) of Liszt await higher-ratio accuracy-and-control before deserving to receive the acclaim they did in this venue whose primary function is to celebrate those no longer with us.

Curiously, ~12 hours earlier as the “surprise” guest for this season’s initial “Late Night at St. Brigid’s” performance, György—following his own elucidating remarks regarding improvisation, family, Keith Jarrett (whose “My Song” is the root of the Hungarian’s most effective showpiece) and Liszt—produced more convincing performances of two of today’s works in the pub-like cavern of the St. Patrick St. Church.

Perhaps, now’s the time to contemplate a career-shift from amiable-virtuoso-on-the-rise to people-pleasing-entertainer-with-formidable-chops. JWR

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Featured performer - Adam György
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