10th October 2007: Alfredo Corral Performs in London10th October 2007: Alfredo Corral Performs in London
By Ray Picot
Brahms' Piano Pieces, Op 118, presented a satisfying if unusual opener to Alfredo Corral's ILAMS lunchtime concert at Regent Hall on Friday 5th October. So often one hears individual pieces from the set, which is a pity as the 6 pieces (4 intermezzi, a ballade and a romance) are carefully connected by keys to form an organic whole. Alfredo's empathy for Brahms was immediate and striking, as he played careful attention to the composer's phrasing without any loss of warmth or immediacy. The melodies ebbed and flowed and the dynamics of the pieces were acutely observed, in what was without doubt a commanding performance.
A Mediterranean breeze wafted into the hall with the sounds of distant guitars and gypsy music in 'El Albaicín', from Albéniz' Iberia (Book 3). This piece, with its flamenco evocations, conjures a colourful picture of Granada's gypsy quarter. Alfredo's tempos were always well balanced, never too hurried but without any loss of momentum, and always responding to the rhythmic demands of the music. The caprice of the music was caught to perfection in this masterly rendition.
A European premiere followed, as Alfredo introduced Pasaje Seaver, a tango by the contemporary Argentine composer Juan María Solare. He first spoke briefly, explaining the interesting genesis of the work as an electro-acoustic composition: the piece refers to a gallery full of tango history that is about to disappear. Tentative chords create an air of mystery, which lead to the slow tango that pervades the work. An air of moodiness is maintained throughout the piece, as the music seems to look back on past glories reflectively. It is always hard to judge a new piece for the first time, but given the persuasive advocacy of Alfredo this seemed a work of considerable interest and merit.
The recital ended with music by the towering Argentine composer, Alberto Ginastera. Alfredo Corral knows how to generate excitement without aggression, and this is what we heard in the wonderful Trez Piezas, Op 6: 'Cuyana', 'Norteña' and 'Criolla'. Written in 1939/40 they bristle with individuality, and show the composer revelling in an exultant spirit of nationalism, caught to near perfection by Alfredo. The audience responded with great enthusiasm.
How could Alfredo leave us without an encore? He treated us to music by the master of tango, Piazzolla, with his 'Muerte del ángel', and the simple charm of 'October', (appropriately selected) from Tchaikovsky's delightful suite The Seasons, ended this memorable recital.
Alfredo Corral's second lunchtime concert was hosted jointly by The Beethoven Piano Society of Europe and ILAMS. Appropriately he started with Beethoven and performed his Sonata in E flat, Op. 7. The elegant opening gave way to passages of greater intensity, full of incident and drama, which were played with utter mastery. The minimal use of pedal, the superb legato lines and effortless dynamic control made his performance utterly riveting. Alfredo demonstrated a strong affinity for this remarkable sonata (Beethoven's 4th), which despite its early opus number shows the composer as an audacious master of form. Alfredo's conception of the piece is that it can be seen as a symphony in the mould of the Eroica, and as a typically Beethovenian battle between man and God. This truly memorable performance drew appreciative applause.
Albéniz' Iberia, once more provided the intermezzo in the recital, this time from Book 2, 'Almería', a seaport in south eastern Spain. It was given a performance that captured its lanquid atmosphere, alternating with sharply drawn rhythms.
As in the first recital, Alfredo Corral ended with music from that giant of 20th Century art, Alberto Ginastera. The 12 Preludios americanos, Op. 12 of 1944 represent to some, the apogee of the composer's early piano music (written 8 years before the monumental first sonata). The musically pungent pieces are sketches which contain a kaleidoscopic variety of rhythmic and melodic ideas, all concentrated into brief time spans. They require focus and precision to achieve optimum musical impact, and this is exactly what Alfredo delivered. You could hear everything, and none of the rhythmic snap was lost. He played the first 6 pieces which comprise Book 1, and as he ended with 'Homenaje a Roberto Garcia Morillo', you could almost hear a pin drop before the audience erupted into applause.
He ended on two favourite recital pieces of Ginastera: contrasting 'Milonga' (a transcription from the popular ballet Estancia), with its engaging melody and the motoric rhythms of 'Malambo', Op 7. Alfredo drew an extraordinary cascade of sounds from the latter, with the rhythmic phrases piling on top of each other, crowned by resounding chords. Bravo!
Once more the audience wanted more and generously received an encore with the second London performance of Pasaje Seaver, by Juan María Solare. For me this made all the difference: the second time around one could appreciate the intricacy of the writing in what was a most satisfying performance.
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