An old-fashioned piano recital - in the sense that the approach was romantic and the music expressed in clean, clear singing tone - was the offering of Anton Kuerti on Monday night.
Kuerti's speciality is in fact the classic-romantics, notably Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Schumann, along with the visionary, mystic Scriabin; and the pianist has every requisite charm and grace to enhance this repertoire.He calls to mind artists of the mid-1900s, when more pianists played from the heart, with the sort of ringing, communicative tone that Kuerti commands; though he plays cleaner and with more rhythmic discipline than many of them did.
His command of technique is formidable, yet refined to the extent that it becomes totally natural and easeful. And through and beyond this technique, he shines as a recognizable original, with a style that seems inherent, instinctive and individualistic.
Moreover, one is struck by his almost uncanny sense of balance. No matter how thick the texture of the music may become, Kuerti never loses track of or touch with even one strand.
He began with one of the most, if not the most, familiar of all piano themes - the well loved adagio which opens the Beethoven Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 (Moonlight). In Kuerti's hands, the adagio may have been familiar, but far from common; for he endowed the entreating, swelling, undulating theme with an unparalleled legato, and the most serene and peaceful exposition, which set the stage for all else to follow.
The playful little Allegretto, its theme repeated in lively syncopated rhythm, proceeded with a charming lilt, and the headlong Presto underlined the remarkably precise clarity and articulation of his playing. His is also one of the finest pedal techniques anywhere around, connecting chords and enhancing tone without ever for an instant becoming muddied or smeared.
Less frequently heard is the Sonata in A Major, Op. 101 of Beethoven, which begins with another romantic theme, which Kuerti balanced and phrased with equal grace and feeling.
He managed to endow the fast movement, a vivace in the style of a march, with both a vertical and horizontal bounce to its step. And though the adagio is less remarkable, the work concluded with an allegro that developed into a fugue of ever-increasing power, masterfully played.
Turning to Mendelssohn, Kuerti offered the Op. 28, Fantasy (Sonate ecossaise) in F-sharp minor - an unusually-shaped piece in which no movement is really slow, and each has its own quick charm.
The opening movement forms one long developmental arch, both melodically and dynamically. And the closing movement is a presto, enhanced with many sequences, runs and florid devices, set forth with stunning clarity, distinction and style. The finale came to a mad and furious climax, its technical difficulties encompassed so masterfully as to drew a spontaneous ovation from the audience.
Kuerti concluded with the brilliant Mendelssohn showpiece, Andante and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 14. He invested the little slow prelude with quietly surging promise, and set forth with feathery lightness and unrestrained tempo the rolling, tumbling runs that this piece resolves into, again showing himself a master of the fast windup.