About us / Contact

The Classical Music Network

New York

Europe : Paris, Londn, Zurich, Geneva, Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Gent
America : New York, San Francisco, Montreal                       WORLD

Your email :



When The Inner Voices Burst Out

New York
Weill Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall
12/16/2008 -  
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonata in E-flat Major, K. 282
Leoš Janáèek: Sonata 1.X 1905
Igor Stravinsky: Three Dances from The Firebird (arranged by Guido Agosti)
Henri Dutilleux Prelude No. 3
Eric Tanguy: Toccata (World Premiere)
Frederic Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Opus 58

Francesco Piemontesi (piano)

Francesco Piemontesi (© Marco Borggreve)

After listening to the young Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi perform the ultra-rare Janáèek Sonata 1.X 1905, one week after Piotr Anderszewski played the same composer’s In The Mists, I vowed never to buy or listen to Janáèek on record again. The Czech’s music is too nakedly passionate, too personally agonizing for a digital machine to come between its emotions and its listeners. And while Janáèek may have thought the Sonata unworthy (he threw it into the Danube), when played by Piemontesi, this writer—and I daresay most of the Weill Hall audience—was mesmerized. Structurally, the work is difficult at first hearing, but the feelings, about a young worker bayoneted “on the white marble steps in Brno” (the composer’s words) spoke for itself.

But this extraordinary pianist’s performance was emblematic of his entire program. Having won numerous awards, including Third Prize at the Queen Elizabeth Competition, and having been championed by Martha Argertich, Mr. Piemontesi, like so many young pianists, is absolutely fearless. His programm started and ended with the familiar (Mozart and Chopin). But in between were works that were unfamiliar, technically challenging, and which could have been tossed off with the confident lightness of genius. That, though, is hardly the way Mr. Piemontesi works. In fact, the inner passionate voices which he obviously feels are transported directly to his piano, with no barriers for the audience. Granted, in Weill Concert Hall, any solo pianist has the resonance, the Baroque beauty and the intimate dimensions to maximize the music.

Even with the Mozart, Mr. Piemontesi was unorthodox. The K. 282 is one of those works which begins with a hushed benediction rather than a bravura opening. The pianist continued with an almost bouncy set of minuets, and finished not merely with a movement that became a game between treble and bass.

The following two-movement Janáèek, rescued from the river, gave clear evidence of the pianist’s emotional mentality. (Immediately after, I thought to myself, “I bet if Mozart heard this, he would have said, ‘What a shame to have been born in the 18th Century. These are the feelings I wanted to express.’”)

While Stravinsky made several piano versions of his ballets, the Firebird, arranged by a student of Busoni, was new, and breathtaking. There were so many glissandi, so many voices in the three pieces that Mr. Piemontesi may well have missed several notes—as if anybody would care. By the finale, I was listening to voices which I’d never heard in the orchestra (and checked with my orchestral score later that they really were there.).

The next two works were a fairly well known Prelude by Henri Dutilleux and a world premiere. They both were works of great virtuosity, but both received different treatment. The Dutilleux became a series of mirrors and resonances, themes peeping out from the digital roughage, hiding, darting in reverse a minute later. One had to listen carefully, but nothing was out of place. The world premiere by Eric Tanguay was a Toccata, a terrific showpiece which had the right musician to show it.

Finally—except for a surprising encore—was Chopin’s Third Sonata, starting with a most majestic opening, and a wonderful finale again with those bass melodies sometimes leading on the whizzing top notes. The Scherzo, though, was most memorable, the fingers glistening over the key, but leaving as much room for the poetry as the panache.

The encore must be noted. After such surprises, what could he possibly do now? It was Gershwin, Embraceable You. Not Oscar Peterson jazz style, but cocktail-piano style. Except……except that you had to put together three cocktail pianists to be as lush! Godowsky probably would have made such an arrangement, but nobody would be able to play it.

Mr. Piemontesi not only played it, but gave it depth, poetry and yes, even that most personal passion.

Harry Rolnick



Copyright ©ConcertoNet.com