16th Singapore International Piano Festival — Day 2/4

Friday, 26th June 2009

Nikolai Demidenko

Chopin

  • 24 Preludes, Op. 28

Schumann

  • Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26
  • Carnaval, Op. 9

I had booked the tickets for the piano festival only just a week and half ago. By then all the good seats for the Demidenko concert were gone. But I managed to score a pair from the organiser. There was even an upgrade to the best seats in the house when the Prime Minister and his wife didn’t show up. The PM’s wife had a cold, so to set a good example (during the current H1N1-A ‘flu pandemic) they thought it best to cancel.

At first I had mixed feelings about Demidenko’s take on the Chopin Preludes. But during the intermission I thought about it some more and decided that I liked all of what I heard.

The rubato was more restrained than one typically expects in a more dramatic (over the top?) reading. The dynamics in some of the preludes were different from the score (well, at least the two editions of the Preludes that I have). In about three or four transitions he bridged the adjacent preludes by holding the last note of the preceding prelude in order to allow a seamless segue into the next prelude. This is the first time I have ever heard all of Op. 28 played as a complete set in recital. Demidenko made the 24 preludes sound like an organic whole. Yes, I still prefer Arrau, but Demidenko’s Preludes is a good alternative view. In fact, for some individual preludes I prefer Demidenko to Arrau.

Then after the intermission, came the Schumann. I have never heard either Faschingsschwank aus Wien nor Carnaval played live before. Demidenko was stunning. What more can I say. Music like this and last night’s Pictures amply demonstrate that the concert grand piano has no equal as a musical instrument.

There were three encores.

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