What, No Bamboo Chimes in Beethoven? – An Die Musik

Prolific recitalist, Soheil Nasseri, vowed to perform all Beethoven’s works for piano by 2020. He’s already 28-out-of-32 on the piano sonatas, but, on Thursday, we were treated to “trifles”: Beethoven’s Seven Bagatelles. And he began with Schumann. But then Nasseri warned: “If you have hearing aids, turn them off now.”

Hear that in a concert, and you’re almost guaranteed to be treated to some “sneak preview” premiere. Two works by composer Samir Odeh-Tamimi. Don’t know him? Me neither. He’s a Palestinian Israeli composer calling Berlin’s Avant-Garde home. Accordingly, Nasseri apologized as he sat down: “I hope that not too many of you leave.”

Skiá (“Shadow” or “Spirit”) and Memory of Forgetfulness were the espresso shot of the evening — in the face of the chamomile qualities of the ten Schumann pieces Nasseri played. (We fault the composer — not the player). Enter the bamboo chimes and china cymbal from stage left.

Skiá, sans chimes, centered around a motif of toggling two neighbor keys — punctuated by thunderclaps — birthing a spirit of deep unrest in the face of damning silence. The two-key toggle expanded to four, mounting its intensity to the finish.

As for Forgetfulness, we won’t forget it. Again, Nasseri tinkles the high keys to announce a mood — CRASH — broken by his two hands collapsing the chimes. The repetition might tempt you to call out, like disgruntled adults staring at a Pollock painting: “My kid coulda done that.” It only seems that easy. You know it is not. Nasseri let fly with many Nadal-worthy heaves of breath, drowned out by the great plunging of his right hand pressing down all the keys under his left.

Such acrobatics ran the full length of the piano and ended with one last great collapse of the chimes. And we were left, to remember — or to forget — the blow to soul as Nasseri ran a single forefinger along from chime to chime. To end, Nasseri broke silence once with a quick brush of finger on the piano’s lowest key.

Post-intermission “atonement” took the form of yet more Schumann, a melodious marshmallow after the crash and crush. Beethoven’s Rage Over a Lost Penny and Bagatelles had only made Schumann surrender all dimensionality.

Soheil Nasseri has played Charles Street’s An Die Musik twice before. We expect we’ll see him again — especially if he’s to administer a stronger dose of Beethoven. He plays like a fellow who has real musical chops.  He doesn’t need to waste energy proving it.

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2 Responses to “What, No Bamboo Chimes in Beethoven? – An Die Musik”

  1. Erik Kestler says:

    Good writing. You know a bunch about music and performers. That pic — gee, Henry’s done a lot of sprucing up of that room!

  2. Lex O says:

    “Melodious marshmallows” indeed! Sam Buker has nailed it again.
    A diverse program is always a risk, frequently a risk worth taking, and juxtaposing Schumann’s somnolent 19th century exercises in textbook harmony against Odeh-Tamini’s unfettered expressionism was a brave gamble that, I think, paid off for Mr Nasseri.
    How did he do it? Two ways: With a graceful musicianship that comes only from an astonishing command of the instrument – unburdened by ego – and the brilliant idea to bridge the gap between the afrorementioned extremes on the program with Beethoven’s effervescent little pieces, which in their own right, demonstrated the joyful rewards that can come when wit and risk-taking are mixed in proper proportion.

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