Ingrid Fliter Plays Chopin

City Halls, Glasgow

24th April

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What is it about Argentina that tends to produce individual performers of such dazzling brilliance? Perhaps it’s something good in the Buenos Aires air (geddit?!) In Football it’s the ‘no.10s’ – Di Stefano, Maradona, Messi. Supremely talented virtuosi, team-players up to a point, but essentially soloists. Their musical equivalents would be pianists – Daniel Barenboim, Martha Argerich and now, Ingrid Fliter.

The 41 year old has built her reputation largely on her mastery of Chopin, and on this evidence boy does she deserve it. Roll over Rubinstein! Hats off Horovitz! Have I gone too far? Perhaps (I sometimes do), but if there’s a better living interpreter of Chopin out there I’d like to hear them. I’d really, really love to hear them!

Poised Panther-like for most of the long orchestral introduction to Chopin’s Piano Concerto no.1 (actually the second he wrote but it was published first), only a slight shuffle and a wipe of the hands betrayed a degree of nervous intention. And it was with a feline economy of movement that she attacked. Feline economy, precision and focused aggression, but also warmth, clarity and a scarcely credible lyricism in the upper register.

The composer meant the slow second movement to “convey the experience when the eye rests on a beloved landscape, which evokes beautiful memories in one’s soul”. In her hands it seemed sadder than that, maybe the landscape had been spoilt with wind-farms, maybe they paved paradise and put a parking lot.

The third movement includes elements of a krakowiak (a dance form native to Krakow). Chopin wrote it as a farewell to his native land which he was shortly to leave behind forever, and that hint of nationalism may have produced a febrile effect at its Warsaw premiere in October 1830. It is not unreasonable to surmise that some of those in the audience were already involved in plotting the uprising against Russian rule which was to erupt just a few weeks later, and was to cost upwards of 40,000 Polish dead and wounded and the last vestiges of autonomy the ancient kingdom still enjoyed.

Sandwiching the fabulous Fliter we had an exquisitely graceful Scottish Chamber Orchestra rendition of Stravinsky’s luscious (and not at all Stravinsky-like) orchestration of Chopin’s A-flat Nocturne, notable as the first of the Russian’s fruitful collaborations (Firebird, Petrushka and the Rite of Spring) with the impresario Diaghilev, and Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, taken at an exhilarating pace by guest conductor Jun Maerkl.

Ingrid Fliter’s recordings of the two Chopin concertos with Maerkl and the SCO are available on Linn Records, and the SCO are available Thursday next at the Queen’s Hall for Barber’s Violin Concerto with Joseph Swensen as conductor and soloist, and next month with Swedish Soprano Lisa Larsson for a UK premiere of Martinsson’s Garden of Devotion, and (mouth wateringly) back at the Usher Hall for Haydn’s vocal masterpiece the Creation with Harry Christopher’s (of the Sixteen) conducting.

Reviewer : Tam Heinitz

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