Kirill Gerstein fills the Boulez Hall: A cosmopolitan at the piano

How impressively Kirill Gerstein’s appearance fulfills the intimacy of the Pierre Boulez Hall. In addition to the formidable physique attributed to black, one can experience a great artistic personality very closely. The cosmopolitan Gerstein gives himself the honor of the home game with a brilliantly seasoned sonata program and side dishes.

The cornerstones of the piano recital, Stravinsky’s “Sonata for Piano” and Schubert’s and Liszt’s “Piano Sonatas in C and B minor”, respectively, are complemented by the latter composer’s “Harmonies Poétiques et religeuses” and two selected studies by Ligeti. 2023 marks the 100th anniversary of his birthday.

Sonata colossus in four movements

The fundamental difference between the three very individual contributions to the sonata genre is obvious. In 1924, Stravinsky wrote three sentences with an explicit reference to the original meaning of the word: “sonare”, i.e. to sound, without explicitly worrying about formal parameters. Schubert’s expansive sonata colossus in four movements, on the other hand, noticeably seeks the structure and dimension of the classical symphony.


For years Liszt was busy with the construction of the sonata.

Liszt’s creation then merges the usual sonata main movement (exposition, development, reprise and coda) with the characteristics of the multi-movement form (first movement, slow movement, scherzo, finale) in just a half-hour movement.

Highest pianistic demands

This epoch-making construction from 1853, which was preceded by attempts by other composers such as Schumann (“Fantasy in C major”) or Schubert (“Wanderer Fantasy”), occupied Liszt for almost four years and its progressive nature pointed well into the 20th century.

The piece, which makes the highest pianistic demands, can now be heard in every second concert. In Gerstein’s interpretation, the power and relevance of this music remain unchanged.

Entertaining but full of depth

The big musical milestones of the evening turn out to be entertaining, almost episodic and yet full of depth. Light, fantastically imperfect shots at the usual neuralgic points in Schubert are quickly forgiven. In general, right and wrong are bourgeois categories.

Gerstein presents himself as a real artist, as a sound poet who knows how to cast a spell over his ears.

Big comparisons are not to be shy away from: “The Fanfares” are even more impressively controlled than by a Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the fugato and stretta of the Liszt sonata are in no way inferior to a Horowitz in terms of tempo and virtuosity, and are even much more intelligently designed.

It almost seems as if György Sebők’s spirit is breathing today from the great arc of tension of the easily joined phrases.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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