Portland Piano recently presented pianist Inon Barnatan as the opening artist of the 2011-2012 season, featuring works by Debussy, Ravel, Adés, Stevenson and ending with the sublime Schubert A Major Sonata, D. 959.
As John Stege of the Santa Fe Reporter said, “This is not a light diversion for a summery afternoon.”
Mr. Barnatan admitted to the dark programming in his opening remarks. Ronald Stevenson’s Fantasy on Peter Grimes, although based on a tragic story was almost cheerier than Thomas Adés’ mysterious Darkness Visible.
Ending the first half of the program was Maurice Ravel’s gargantuan Gaspard de la Nuit, a musical masterpiece that happens to be one of the most difficult works in the pianists’ repertoire. The range of textures and colors in Barnatan’s performance was mesmerizing, and the ease with which he played this thorny work was remarkable. The closing movement fully captured the mischievous Scarbo flitting in and out of the darkness, enhanced by a moth capturing the overhead lights in the Newmark Theater.
It brought to mind a recent article featuring British pianist Steven Osborne, who has recently completed recording the complete piano works of Ravel. He shared his practice diary with The Guardian as he began work on Gaspard, a piece he had never played. It’s rare for an artist such as Mr. Osborne to reveal his working process, and especially with such a frank admission of just how difficult the piece was for him. It’s entertaining and instructional for all of us as pianists to see that even the greatest artists have to struggle at times in the learning process. I’ll look forward to hearing his finished CD.
Follow this link to the Guardian story of Osborne’s Gaspard voyage.
Osborne performs the Britten Piano Concerto with the Oregon Symphony on November 5th and 7th.