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Ensemble

Supreme Artistry

Nick van Bloss plays Beethoven,
and impresses ANDREW SCHARTMANN

 

A fresh interpretation of oft-played music is a rare treat. Yet that is precisely what patrons of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra experienced when English pianist Nick van Bloss performed Beethoven's monumental 'Emperor' concerto. Each movement had its surprises — stark deviations from tradition that drew forth new musical characters from the timeless score, all executed with confidence and supreme artistry.

The opening Allegro showcased a confident van Bloss, bold enough to take liberties with the tempo by stretching it to and fro like an elastic band. These liberties garnered knee-jerk resistance from some — 'That's not how it goes!' — but in the end, the audience was won over by van Bloss' unique and deeply musical conception of the work.

The sublime Adagio was treated with great care, as van Bloss sculpted Louvre-worthy melodic arcs, tender and soothing in character. It was as if he were taming the notes — rocking them gently to sleep, and in turn, lulling the audience into a meditative state of mind.

The finale bustled with a fiery energy, though this was stilted ever so slightly by a brief hesitation over the tempo. Once van Bloss settled in, however, the music burst forward with perpetual drive. In particular, the movement highlighted his refined sensitivity to changes of key. All of the piano's mechanisms were put to work in coloring the different tonalities, such that each part of the form had its own particular shade. These fine hues were overshadowed at times by an overeager brass section, but by and large, the overall effect was well-balanced.

In all of the movements, van Bloss demonstrated an uncanny ability to change face at the drop of a hat, without disturbing the overall flow. This created a challenge for conductor William Boughton, who had to match van Bloss' broad palette with his baton. There were moments when the orchestra seemed at odds with van Bloss' interpretation, but overall, the fine musicians of the NHSO painted with the same brush.

Nick van Bloss
Nick van Bloss. Click on the image for higher resolution

Perhaps the main highlight for the local press was van Bloss' inspiring story. Diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at twenty-one, he took a fifteen-year leave from the concert stage following a mid-performance outbreak. But van Bloss has emphasized that he doesn't want his condition to define him as an artist. As he told The Telegraph upon his return to the stage in 2009, 'There are people who would abuse having Tourette's, who would go on stage, gyrate a bit and make millions. I probably could, but I don't want to. I want a proper career.' And that is precisely what he has built for himself. As his exceptional performance with the NHSO proved, there is a major talent in our midst — one who is going to do great things for classical music.

Copyright © 27 February 2016 Andrew Schartmann,
Connecticut USA

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Nick van Bloss records with Nimbus Records. His most recent recording features Beethoven's Diabelli Variations and Piano Sonata in F minor (Appassionata). The concert reviewed above took place on the evening of 25 February 2016 at Woolsey Hall, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. The other work on the programme was Brahms' Symphony No 2.

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN

PIANO MUSIC

ORCHESTRAL MUSIC

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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