La Scena Musicale

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Anton Kuerti gets Schumann, mostly

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

More than a few times during his all-Schumann piano recital Tuesday evening, Anton Kuerti looked like he was frustrated with himself. Unfortunately, he sounded liked it too.

Opening the fifth annual Toronto Summer Music Festival at Koerner Hall, Kuerti, who turns 72 years old this week, played with his usual integrity and nobility; but he missed too many notes to keep track of.

The blemished performance must have distracted even the celebrated pianist, because at times he took it out on the piano, hitting the jumps instead of landing them. Passages that required military precision came across as loose and muddled.

That being said, you could still savour Kuerti's Schumann like you would a frostbitten pint of ice cream.

To start it off, the program is a varied: it includes some of Schumann's least-heard works, as well some of his most-performed, and then some of his best-written. Kuerti gave us boundless soul, intrigue, and imagination with Novelettes, Op. 21, nos. 1, 7, and 4, Fantasie in C major, Op. 17, Toccata in C major, Op. 7, and Grand Sonata No. 1 in F-sharp minor, Op. 11.

It's also a program that's physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding for any pianist in his or her prime, never mind a septuagenarian, and Kuerti thrived on the music's sweet lyricism and sustained its rhythmic pulse with a sense of purpose, clarity, and admiration for the composer.

A loyal crowd cheered on their feet at the end of the concert, but Kuerti didn't give an encore.

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