A Powerful, Purposeful New York Concert by Pianist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis
Monday night at Merkin Concert Hall, Greek pianist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis played a powerful, determinedly intuitive performance of Schubert and Liszt plus his own works, which were the most interesting and dynamic of all the pieces on the bill. Lazaridis showed off world-class technique but also world-class touch: the murmurs carried just as much weight as the crushing cadenzas.
He opened with Schubert’s “Wanderer” Sonata, which as he played it didn’t wander at all: this was an epic with a clear trajectory and denouement, through the cruelly difficult, machinegunning counterpoint of the big block chords on the opening allegro movement, a vividly cantabile take of the adagio and then a dazzling climb to the big, Beethovenesque payoff at the end. Lazaridis’ unwaveringly decisive central tempo and matter-of-factness gave him a strong central anchor for Schubert’s colorful digressions and ornamentation.
He closed the program with Liszt’s Sonata in B Minor, S. 178, which is sort of Liszt for people who don’t like Liszt. He began and eventually ended with an almost rubato approach to the composers’s lingering, minimalistically rapt themes, saving plenty of firepower for the characteristically Lisztian, wide-angle pyrotechnics. But the highlight of the bill was a trio of segments from Lazaridis’ own Trojan Cycle. The concert’s emcee explained beforehand that the suite is not meant to be a blow-by-blow portrayal of the Iliad but an exploration of its characters’ emotional currents, particularly their overwhelming sense of doom. This came immediately to the surface on the enigmatically brooding Achilles Mourning, where the warrior sees his own end and everyone else’s around him coming up over the horizon. Artfully blending twelve-tone acidity and moodily narrative neoromanticism, it set the stage for Andromache, which in many ways was a history of the piano beginning with Schumann, through Alban Berg and Schoenberg and then back in time again, a hauntingly surreal portrait lit up with all sorts of unexpected rhythmic and dynamic shifts. The final piece was the Battlefield Toccata, which segued aptly with the Liszt: it was the most cinematic, and explosive, of all Lazaridis’ original works on this bill and a tantalizing encouragement for the packed house to go looking for the rest of the suite. This concert was presented by the Hellenic-American Cultural Foundation; if the rest of their programming is like this, it’s worth seeking out.
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