The Keys To The City
Mannes College Concert Hall
07/13/2008 - & July 14-27
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata No. 6 in F Major, Opus 10, No. 2
Robert Schumann: Fantasiestücke, Opus 12
Nicolai Karlovich Medtner: From “Forgotten Melodies”, Volume II, Opus 39: Canzona Matinata – Sonata Tragica
Issac Albéniz: Tango (arranged by Leopold Godowsky) – Navarra (arranged by Adam Golka)
Adam Golka (Piano)
A.Golka (© Paul Sanchez)
“The piano,” wrote Bierce in The Devil’s Dictionary, “is played by depressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.”
Shhh. Don’t tell that to the denizens on New York’s Upper West Side, where, for the next two weeks, the piano will monopolize the classrooms, conversation and above all, pretty little concert hall of Mannes College. For the last nine years, Mannes has presented nothing but piano—lectures, concerts and Master Classes—during the usually drab summer concert season. And celebrating the first decade, two concerts a night will be performed in recitals titled Prestige and Masters.
I have not the slightest idea of the difference between the two. But a glance at the programs shows a preponderance of music from the piano’s Grand Era of the last 19th Centuiry. Plenty of Schumann and Liszt and Brahms, a little Bartók, a little Bach… .The last few days brings the Superstars of the Keyboard: Philippe Entremont doing Mozart, Ravel, Debussy and Beethoven; and on July 26, Mark André Hamelin doing Mozart, Chopin Scriabin and—wow!!—the Ives Concord Sonata.
But typical of the Prestige Concerts was last night’s Adam Golka, already a winner of many prizes, a performer with some excellent orchestras (including the Atlanta, Warsaw, and Houston), and a recitalist with world-wide credits. Obviously, the young artist is superbly confident, his technique is perfect, and he actually had fun with his program.
On first sight, the choices were hardly iconoclastic. An early Beethoven, popular Schumann, and two works by Medtner and Albéniz. But surprises were in store.
The opening Beethoven is not the most challenging piece, but Golka played with an appropriate buoyancy, even, in that presto-magic Finale, a bit of a bounce. It was easy listening old Lud, followed by an equally accessible Schumann, the early Fantasy Pieces. As poetic as the Warum? (“Why”) and as glowing as “In The Night, Golka seemed to come out of the spell especially in Grillen—“Whims”. This was no mere poetry, but had a special humor, which Golka would exhibit later. (And yes, Schumann does label it “To be played with humor”)
As an admirer of Medtner, a pair of works was not enough, but Golka essayed that very difficult Sonata Tragica with all the percussive and shimmering keyboard animation needed.
Yet this was only a beginning to an engaging second half. First was the Albéniz Tango, arranged by Leopold Godowsky. For once, though, Godowsky didn’t go over the top, but simply gave it some cushiony elegance. Golka arranged Navarra, pulling a kind of Godowsky on himself. The arrangement was not only frilly pyrotechnical, but Golka, I believe, interpolated some other Albéniz, including Malaguena). It was, like the Beethoven, great fun.
Two worthy encores. One was Ravel, the other was jazz, probably composed by the pianist, and encompassing about six different jazz styles in this one single piece. At 20 years old, Golka may be a wunderkind of sorts, but he really does act his age!!
A. Golka’s website