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Monday saw no slackening of the pace with the arrival of 18-year-old Croatian Aljosa Jurinic, a winner of the 2007 Osijek International Piano Competition (of which I was a jury-member in 2005 and so can vouch for its impressive standard) and recent recitalist in the EPTA UK Conference at Warwick University. The opening mordents-in-thirds of Beethoven's Op 2 No 3 were neatly turned and the playing clean as a whistle. Only once or twice in the opening movement might one complain of unstylistic late-19th century staccatissimi which in Beethoven's time would have been weightier detached chords (indicated by spikes rather than by dots) or ends of phrases. But any such tendency to disjunctiveness fully justified itself in the Adagio which became a valedictory succession of down-turning phrases almost resembling broken sobs. Never have I heard this movement more heartrendingly conveyed all the more so given the pianist's stiff classical upper lip. The entry of the bass melody in octaves first mf and then ff at the Poco piu animato shook us to the core as Beethoven fully intended. And how Beethoven would have relished Aljosa's capacity to drop from a forte sound to a pp in mid-phrase! The finale, Allegro assai, was as 'assai' as the pianist's nimble fingers could manage without converting it into the mad scramble too often to be heard today. For all his laudable desire to practise classical restraint, the piano sound was at times even drier than it need be for Beethoven.
Then came the Chopin Ballade No 1 the impressiveness of which was clinched by the ensuing Nocturne in D flat thus establishing this young master of the pianissimo, who need not thunder to keep his listeners on the edge of their seats, as a Chopin-player beyond compare. But the fullest range of Aljosa's multiple talents were revealed in the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No 12 where his virtuoso performance, entering into the daredevil spirit of Gypsy fiddlers, carried all before it. His lion's roar of a bass, sometimes drowning out the harmonic changes involved, alternated tellingly with the trills and gruppetti of the treble while the Friska was as clear as a bell. This was a performance worthy of Arthur Rubinstein in his prime.
As an encore, in response to tumultuous applause, Aljosa was persuaded to play the Chopin Etude in C sharp minor Op 10 No 4, going straight from the bravura of the Gypsies to a chamber-music format, and leaving his lyrical cantabile -- surely the key to his ravishing artistry -- to linger long on our aural palate.
Copyright © 15 August 2007
Malcolm Troup, London UK