<< -- 2 -- John Bell Young Magisterial presence
Even so, to ignore a performance as impassioned as this one would be
as unjust as it would be irresponsible. True enough, it is a young man's
performance, wanting for the philosophical detachment and depth of experience
such as a sagacious elderly statesman of the instrument would no doubt deliver.
But there is a certain energy, in spite of it, which is appealing. From
the opening salvo inaugurated by the duet between horn and piano, followed
by Brahms's audacious introduction of a front-end cadenza, Mr Ungar
wastes no time in establishing a magisterial presence. Without sacrificing
an iota of rhythmic tension, he forsakes shadow for substance in a work
that demands just that. His playing is at once affectively specific and
goal oriented. In this reading, there isn't so much as a motive that
hasn't been pristinely shaped and assigned an identity of its own,
one that remains memorable for the entire duration of a work that relies
on such material as the measure of its structural integrity [listen].
The granitic solidity of Mr Ungar's Brahms bears something in common
with Richter, but it is no imitation. On the contrary, he is his own man,
lending its oceanic form and fistfuls of chord progressions immediacy and
Rarely have the compositional anxieties of the Scherzo sounded
more robust and urgent, or its litany of compulsive surges so compelling.
Mr Ungar has mapped out its gung-ho trajectory with admirable clarity, finding
opportunities to drive things forward with an earnest ardency that takes
neither motivic material nor passagework for granted. He likewise invests
the plaintive rhetorical wail of the slow movement with the searing poignancy
of a sole survivor [listen]. What a pity, then,
that Mr Ungar has a less than polished collaborator in the Varna Philharmonic.
Copyright © 8 December 2001
John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA
CD INFORMATION - UNGAR CD1
PURCHASE FROM EVANSVILLE UNIVERSITY
SHORTLY TO BE AVAILABLE FROM AMERICUS RECORDS
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