Filippo Gorini - Recital at Meany

The young Italian pianist Filippo Gorini played at Meany Center. Beforehand I felt draggy about even going despite having a ticket, because these days I am feeling especially down on the classical world playing the same music in tuxes, and though the program was challenging and deeply interesting music (Beethoven's last two sonatas with Bartok's sonata and a Stockhausen piece in between), I've heard much of it played live in recent years. But I forgot all that while this guy played. It was fantastic.

Once again I was struck by how the same piano in the same hall can sound markedly different. Gorini's technique puts his hands in contact with the piano most of the time, holding a dynamic middle ground that allows for color and contrast, never banging without a purpose. It's the interpretive side that most impressed, however, and it comes down to emotional honesty. Gorini's playing made me think about how musicians approach music that is painful — or avoid the subject altogether. There were numerous examples in this program. I'm thinking especially of the slow middle movement of the Bartok sonata and of the first movement of Beethoven's sonata no. 32.

In most hands the Bartok slow movement comes off as stark and abstract, like an overlong study of the color brown that we must endure between the exciting outer movements. But Gorini had it play out like states of mind: ruminating, feeling pensive, or trapped, or deeply sad, sometimes gnashing or in one case floating. Not only was it absorbing but it felt exactly right, like I was finally hearing what Bartok was up to here.

I had a similar feeling in the Beethoven. His last sonata starts in a very dark place, and it's almost as if the musician can't pull it off without going there, too. Gorini certainly did. It was the same notes, but not the same canned pathos that's so often served as a replacement for real feeling — instead this actually hurt, and again it felt right. And where the music swung to opposite emotional extremes it was just as right. There's a section in the Beethoven finale that's famous for being 'jazzy' because it's syncopated, but it usually sounds awkward to me, as if the overall rhythm becomes distended (because it does). In this performance it was faster, flying up and down the keyboard, a burst of frantic excitement. Late Beethoven has sometimes been accused of being the product of a crackpot, and sometimes it even sounds that way, but I'm realizing more and more that it has to do with how emotionally real the musicians are able to get in it. And I don't mean droopy or swoopy or over-serious, I just mean real, and real is sometimes violent, or serenely happy.

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