Five Difficult Pieces
Tisch Center for the Arts
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata # 30
Arnold Schoenberg: Three Pieces, Op. 11
Frederic Chopin: Ballade # 4
Isaac Albeniz: Evocation from Iberia
Serge Rachmaninoff: Sonata # 2
Ian Fountain (piano)
Romanticism was viewed from five different perspectives last evening as young Briton Ian Fountain exhibited his strong and solid style to a woefully tiny audience at the 92nd Street Y. In the Beethoven, Fountain displayed sure technique but was uncharacteristically reserved, exploring the intellectual side of the piece but not delving deeply into its emotional core. Quite another matter was the Schoenberg. Many competent pianists miss the highly charged emotion of this groundbreaking work, but Fountain dug in and exposed a wildly beating heart under the search for unreserved pantonality. These ten minutes, which changed the world of music forever, are often treated dryly and academically; it was truly a pleasure to hear them played like the mainstream Romantic tone poems which they essentially are. The last movement, beginning as it does in the Bacchic exhilaration of total harmonic freedom, was thrilling.
Mr. Fountain also showed his balanced ability to present the drama of the emotional crescendo. The Chopin begins quietly and builds to an orgiastic level of tension and left-handed volume. This youngest ever Rubinstein prize winner is a strapping lad and his large hands are perfect for this type of piece (much more apt than Chopin’s delicate frame), his natural abilities never sounding any sense of strain. Exotically poetic was the Albeniz, its subtle hints of Levantine airs evoking the warm breezes of Mediterranean romance.
But it was in the Rachmaninoff wherein this potential star really shone. Possessing the composer’s imposing physical stature, Fountain was up to the task of so many notes, runs and cross-handed melodic volleying. Again his strong left hand carried the day, the heartbreaking tertiary themes exploding from the modal chrysalis created in the second movement, an almost unbearable potion of depression, regret, longing and intense tension. Here is the true heart of Romanticism itself, the composer laying bare his own fragile psyche and the able interpreter serving it up whole. A pity that there were so few to hear.
Given the draining nature of the program and the sparse crowd, encores were out of the question. There will be very few of us in future years who can say with veracity that we were there when Ian Fountain made his New York recital debut.
Frederick L. Kirshnit