27 October 2010

Thoughts of passion

It’s not jazz but these are great musical experiences. Earlier this week I was standing over the shoulder of a mate, Mike, as he played Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu on another mate’s Yamaha grand piano. Last night it was visiting Finnish concert pianist, Paavali Jumppanen, performing at the Finnish Embassy. I was not quite standing over his shoulder, but I was close and enjoying the power and passion (passion fits here, but more on that later) of another Yamaha grand, lid up and only a few metres away, in full flight.

The program was nicely balanced. It started with Mozart’s Sonata no.3 in Bb major. This was often pretty but mostly effusive, effervescent, overflowing with life. The concert notes spoke of a love duet in the second movement, of joyous outcomes and timid entreaties, and certainly the birdsong tweets and the sweet parallel sixths (mentioned in the program and I’m pretty sure I heard them) fit this theme. I heard it as Mozart and his young, toying, youthful personality, the one we are told of. One of the greats, certainly, perhaps a child-genius: vibrant and alive (and very possibly petulant). Paavali played this with generous dynamics and tempo changes verging on a romantic sensibility, and on a piano which sounded stolid in midrange and lively in the highs, and in a very lively acoustic space.

Next was Four Preludes Op.77 by Jouni Kaipanen. Jouni is a modern Finnish composer. This work was commissioned by Paavali and premiered in 2006. How different! The notes comment that Jouni is avant-garde but later influenced by a new awareness of tonality. We got dissonance and polyrhythms and intense rubato and music free of a time signature and mutating arpeggiated runs and dynamics that moved from the lightest of high tinkles to ponderous chords and low notes, but also delicious tone-images. I heard slivers of ice and regeneration of flowers and bushes and expressions of a harsh but seasonal environment that I imagine must be Finland. Certainly this fit the fourth prelude called Tempo Terrace with its poetry theme and perhaps the third called Waiting for the wind with its contrasted explosive outbursts and spring fountains. I was less certain of the sound images in the second, a prelude called Erik, wondering who was this man and what the music said of him. I heard anticipation, which might fit a personality, but also thunder and rubato and some very heavy chordal statements. Still thinking.

Last on the program was Beethoven’s Sonata Op.57, the Appassionata. This is fiery classical excess, all emotion. Long repeated scales over the full range of the keyboard, major-minor key changes, denouements and resolutions and relief and rapture. This was passion undiminished, under some control at times but open and declared, exalted, even indulgent. The second movement was more subdued, ordered, almost courtly and delightful, if not so exceptional and certainly more restrained. But that was interim only. I was laughing as the final movement ended in terrible excess, loud and rabid attacks over the whole range, huge chords and an end. It’s sad that to some degree the effect has been lost as popular culture has appropriated the celestial for the popular soundtrack. But in a concert situation the Appassionata retains its presence and power.

Paavali returned for an encore with another F minor work, Mozart’s slow movement from the Second Piano concerto. What a change again: this was courtly, steadied, intellectual clarity rather than passion, but still emotive and beautiful. More a connection to Mozart’s musical past, with ornamentation and dignity and presenza. I wondered if this was a mature Mozart; it was composed 30 years before Beethoven’s extremes.

I enjoyed that I experienced the music rather than the performance. I talked to Paavali afterwards, and he spoke of enjoying the music, not just the playing, so it fitted. It was not just me who heard it as youthful and vigourous playing, rich in dynamics and pauses, strongly emoted but also respectfully and thoughtfully presented. Otherwise, I can just wonder at such musicianship, the skills of hand and mind and heart, the immersion in the music that makes for the feats of memory, the awareness that allows the structure to impel itself and make the works the inevitable things they are.

Thanks to Paavali Jumppanen (piano), to the Finnish Embassy and to Henk van Leeuwen of Australia Northern Europe Liaisons who brought Paavali to Australia for his third visit.

1 comment:

Ritva Kettunen said...

Firepower! The evening delivered the kind of fresh and exciting performance for which the artist has come to be known. Looking forward Paavali´s fourth tour in Australia!