Fliter’s Bach and Beethoven offer compelling keyboard artistry

Mon Jun 14, 2010 at 5:36 am

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Ingrid Fliter performed a recital Sunday afternoon.

Ingrid Fliter’s recital Sunday afternoon was billed as part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Beethoven Festival, even though her program included just one of the composer’s works.

No matter because the gifted pianist provided not only a highlight of the CSO’s Beethoven series but some of the most compelling keyboard artistry heard this season.

Fliter’s career was quickly launched in 2006 when she won the prestigious Gilmore Award, the young Argentinian vaulting from near-obscurity to a major international career.

Fliter made a strong first impression in music of Chopin in which her nuanced, subtly hued playing proved a fine fit for the Polish composer. Sunday’s program offered the opportunity to hear Fliter in some cornerstone German repertory of Bach, Beethoven and Schumann.

Bach’s Italian Concerto offered a worthy start to the afternoon.  Fliter’s skill as a Chopin player was clear in her graceful and individual approach to Bach, vigorous yet exploring an array of dynamic shading within a flexible rubato that never traversed the line to anachronism.

The Andante was a highlight, Fliter’s elegant pure tone and terraced range of hues distilling the melancholy introspection, rounded off by a whirlwind Presto finale with only slight loss of contrapuntal clarity. Not Bach playing for purists perhaps, but playing that wedded poetry and bracing energy in winning fashion.

Beethoven’s Sonata No. 18 is one of the composer’s less frequently encountered works in the genre these days, possibly do as much to its lacking a nickname, as its technical difficulty.

Fliter brought not just a sterling technique but just the right sense of quirky humor and individuality to this music. Rarely will one hear the jocular side of Beethoven put across with such spirit, the dynamic contrasts underlined , and Fliter’s light articulation bringing a vivacious Haydnesque wit to the music. Fliter was equally assured in the gamboling joie de vivre of the Scherzo, with impressive dynamic detailing taken at a headlong tempo. She also brought out the pensive side of the songful Menuetto and the rollicking Presto was aptly con fuoco making a rousing conclusion to a first-rate Beethoven performance.

With her wide range of dynamic and expressive detailing, one would think Schumann would be a natural for Fliter. Yet while her take on the Symphonic Etudes was technically assured and full of  lovely passing moments, Fliter’s Schumann didn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts, lacking something in ballast and a sense of the work’s epic scope.

Fliter seemed more in synch with the dreamy Eusebius side of Schumann’s bipolar muse, somewhat slighting the extroverted Florestan moments. Also, while I admire her textual ambition and skillful interpolation of the five posthumously published etudes, I’m not convinced that the additions do the work any favors, making a lengthy piece seem even more distended (though Fliter’s interior, expressive way with Nos. 2 and 5 presented a creditable case for their inclusion).

No complaints about Fliter’s exquisite Chopin encores (Waltzes in A minor and E flat major), as limpid and poetic playing of this repertoire as one will hear today.

Posted in Performances

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