The audience at Philia Hall, Yokohama, before the recital. Note the beefy-looking camera at top left. Inset: Aimi and Ichiro Takahashi after the concert.
Recital at Philia Hall, Yokohama, 26 November 2011
Recital in Philia Hall series “Goddess (Muse) and Encounters”
Chopin, Scherzo no. 1 in B minor, Op. 20
Chopin, Mazurka no. 41 in C sharp min, Op. 63
Chopin, Piano Sonata no. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 35, “Funeral March”
Prokofiev, Piano Sonata no. 3 in A minor, Op. 28
Beethoven, Piano Sonata no. 23 in F minor, “Appassionata”
Chopin, Étude Op. 10, no. 5, “Black Keys”
Chopin, Nocturne no. 20
Page in preparation — comments on the performance of some pieces will come by and by. Meanwhile, enjoy Ichiro's photos . . .
Left: The entrance to Philia Hall. Above: The audience arriving
This must be a fiendish sonata to play — not just technically but also because of the bursts of emotional, almost angry, content in the first movement — and overall Aimi performed it most creditably. Certainly the audience was impressed, and at least one loud cry of “brava” can be heard amid the enthusiastic applause at the end.
First movement - Allegro assai
For what it’s worth — because judging a performance is so subjective — another (very experienced) listener and I felt that Aimi still isn’t entirely sure how to deal with the passionate outbursts in the first movement. There are at least eight of these (depending on what you count as passionate or an outburst), separated by quieter bridging passages. My expert listener’s impression was that he could hear ideas from several sources which Aimi hadn’t altogether synthesised into a coherent interpretation of her own. This confirmed my own feeling on a first (though thorough) listen that Aimi rather hurled herself into the passionate outbursts, possibly confusing loudness — and a certain impetuosity — with strength of emotion and therefore emerging from the encounter slightly unconvincingly. However, on a second hearing a month later I found the movement more convincing. It is certainly dynamic, and, to judge from the imperfect recording we have, played with Aimi’s usual clear finger work and confident touch.
Second movement - Andante con moto
Aimi pauses for an astonishing 38 seconds between the first and second movements. She was advised against taking such long breaks between movements (of the Chopin no. 2 sonata) by Prof. Zydron at the Fukuda scholarship auditions in August 2011, on the grounds that it detracts from the audience’s enjoyment. But who can blame Aimi as, once you start on the second movement of the Appassionata, you are committed to play right through to the end, with no chance of another breather. The second movement is just fine to my ears, much as you’d expect, in reflective mood, but always building to the shocking opening and subsequent turmoil of the last movement.
Third movement - Allegro ma non troppo and Presto
Aimi drives this movement hard and relentlessly — as it should be driven — achieving considerable sonority and excitement on the way. It’s a fine performance, with a rousing finale in the presto, and the enthusiastic response from the audience is well deserved. Why Aimi complains about her weak finger joints I cannot imagine! It certainly doesn’t show in this formidable performance.
There was some criticism of the CD version of the sonata (recorded in December 2010), mainly on the grounds that it wasn’t particularly interesting. Patrick Tabet for example wrote me that he found it disappointing in that it could have been played by a hundred other competent pianists. (The flip side of this was that he found the Kinderszenen on the same disk outstandingly good.) I certainly shared that feeling about the third movement on the CD, and I found it difficult to work up the enthusiasm to listen to the rest of the sonata.
One always has to remember when listening to Aimi’s performances that the expectations are so high — and perhaps sometimes too high to allow a dispassionate assessment of performances like this. An emotionally dynamic, chiaroscuro, Beethoven bad-boy piece like Appassionata is a different world from the gentler Chopin concertos and other smaller pieces she feels at home with and plays so superlatively well. Interestingly, perhaps, it’s also different from the more classical form of the Waldstein sonata, with its greater focus on pure structure, in which Aimi excelled on her first CD.
Another point of criticism, expressed by several in the audience at Aimi’s performance of Appassionata at Weill Hall in April 2011, was that it was just too darned loud for the venue — i.e. that she didn’t judge her performance well with respect to the acoustics of a smallish hall. This was a point that was made to her by Prof. Braginsky, also at the Fukuda scholarship auditions, and according to Aimi herself she is now paying more careful attention to how a piece sounds in a particular venue.
On the whole this is a very “regular” performance with no particular quirks or, indeed, individuality of expression. It is strongly and cleanly played, with good dynamic contrast. If there are some minor reservations about the maturity of this Philia Hall performance, it’s clear that Aimi is still developing the sonata and, in the fullness of time, she will undoubtedly give us renditions where she more “inside” it and able to confidently express both Beethoven and herself. It’s a gigantically demanding piece, and one couldn’t realistically expect more of a 16-year-old. I shall be waiting until she is 25-30 for a really insightful version!
Aimi and her now familiar routine of signing autographs after the concert. Centre photo is a little blurry, but still nice . . .
Above: Aimi giving Akiko Takahashi a warm hello; right: with an unknown concert-goer
With Ichiro Takahashi, who does all the hard work translating Aimi’s blogs in CHOPIN Magazine.
Recent performances of the Chopin and Prokofiev sonatas (played during the finals of the Yasuko Fukuda scholarship auditions in August 2011) have been posted by the PTNA on YouTube:
Chopin Sonata no. 2 (20:36)
Prokofiev Sonata no. 3 (7:07)
So far no complete performance of Appassionata has appeared on video.
Other archived pages:
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