April 20, 2021

Liza and her friends | Culture

Liza and her friends | Culture

The great piano week in Madrid, with the recitals of Maurizio Pollini and Yevgueni Kissin, has not been able to have better complement than the extraordinary chamber music offered on Thursday by the great Georgian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja and two young colleagues, still not very well known among us: the Dutch violinist of Russian origin Liza Ferschtman and the Hungarian cellist István Várdai. Nothing was noticed by the generation that separates that from these, but it is not surprising either that Leonskaja, a reference name in his instrument for decades, has agreed to play with two much younger musicians who are still struggling to make a great name for themselves. the very disputed classical musical field (and, according to what has been seen and heard, the two have plenty of conditions for this). Le Georgiana is a very long-time camerist and, just as she learned a lot from making music with her elders (with Sviatoslav Richter at the helm), now the tables have been reversed and it is others who benefit from her wisdom, her experience and his teaching.

Just three years younger than Pollini, Leonskaja remains in an extraordinary state of form. On June 6, for example, he played at the Fundación Juan March the three last Sonatas for piano by Franz Schubert, a feat that mimicked the program he had already offered in 2009 at the Symphony Hall of the National Auditorium. And he says a lot about his generosity and his physical and psychic strength that in this last recital, which lasted for almost three hours, he played as a second tip the Fantasy "Wanderer"! Any of her concerts – solo, with orchestra or with friends (the Alban Berg and Borodin Quartets or the violinist Leonidas Kavakos, for example) – are firmly installed in the memory of good Madrid fans.

Franz Schubert, Threesomes with piano D. 898 and 929. Liza Ferschtman (violin); István Várdai (violochelo) and Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano). National Auditorium, February 14.

Leonskaja has always felt a special affinity for the music of Schubert, from whom he has recently recorded all his Sonatas for piano and whose complex emotional world transmits with signs of identity that often recall those of Richter himself, one of his leading interpreters. The gestation and chronology of his two Trios with piano are wrapped in a certain mystery. We do know for sure that the one known today as second (in E flat) was played on March 26, 1828, the day the world remembered Ludwig van Beethoven on the first anniversary of his death, a chosen date, not coincidentally , by Franz Schubert to organize at the Musikverein in Vienna the only public concert devoted entirely to his works in life. The Austrian was then – and so must have sensed – the greatest composer in Europe. The romantic pioneers were still very young, just teenagers, and there was nobody even remotely able to compose the music that Schubert lit up in the last months of his life.

This sick composer, at times dejected, at times exultant, always undermined by the devastating effects of syphilis and the brutal and inhuman treatment prescribed by his doctors, is perfectly reflected in these two Trios that embody as few works his Spätstil, if you can talk about late style in a creator of 31 years. They are long, complex, ambitious, very personal works that use classic formal molds to drive them decisively towards the future, exactly the same as their last string quartet, whose first movement was also performed in that historic concert on March 26 . It is not usual to listen to them together, since both are close to 50 minutes in length if all the repetitions are respected: it is worth mentioning that the last movement of the Threesome D. 929 has nothing less than 846 bars if you opt for the uncut version of the Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke of Schubert that Bärenreiter published in 1975, and that was the one used in the concert. It is an unprecedented figure in any other composition of the time. What summits could Schubert have ascended if the illness had not devoured him?

Elisabeth Leonskaja looking at her classmates during the concert.
Elisabeth Leonskaja looking at her classmates during the concert.

It is even less frequent to hear these two works performed as in the versions formed by Leonskaja, Ferschtman and Vardái in the Chamber Room of the National Auditorium. The three of them endorsed this dubious and antagonistic mood of Schubert and their versions of both trios had even doses of lyricism and despair, of recollection and outrage, of acceptance and rebellion. No more significant movement in this respect than the famous Walking with a motorbike of the Trio in E flat major, which opens with one of the greatest melodic discoveries of Schubert (who, conscious of it, picked up the melody up to three times in the last movement), played very soberly by Várdai, without the uncomfortable mellow with which he sometimes listens. In him the greatest cry of anguish of the composer explodes, inserted in a central section that grows in intensity until it reaches an emotional tearing thanks to the tremolandi of the piano, played extraordinarily by Leonskaja, who dragged in the vortex his young disciples and friends. So much was involved the Georgian who then had a couple of lapses of concentration, which managed to leave gracefully, very well seconded by Ferschtman and Várdai, who showed good hearing and many tables.

The Dutch violinist drew attention to his technical solidity and, above all, a portentous right hand, capable of performing a huge variety of bow strokes, always well chosen, while the cello (and not just anyone: the Stradivarius that played in his day Jacqueline du Pré) seems in the hands of the high István Várdai almost a toy that he dominates with apparent ease in all its records, even when he chooses to risk playing certain landscapes, for the sake of expressiveness, in very high positions. The two seem called to great careers and they understood each other very well in the numerous parallel passages of the string, while they assumed, as much as Leonskaja, the lack of prominence of any of the three. Constant looks, gestures accomplices and alert ears propitiated some versions always homogeneous and of high musical level.

Despite the exhaustion, and before the enthusiasm of the public, they decided to play outside the program, of course, the Notturno (a spurious title) by Schubert, another page for a trio with a piano of doubtful dating, but born without a doubt very close to the two works that we had just heard. It is even possible that it was originally the slow movement for Trio in B flat major: by its shades and its tonality, it is a more than plausible hypothesis. It was not published, though, for the first time until 1846, many years after the composer's death, a sadly habitual fate in its catalog. It was, again, a lesson of understanding and sensitivity on the part of the three instrumentalists, who had played the same program the previous day in Seville.

On the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, many of the musicians he has played with gave Liza (as they all call her friendly) Leonskaja a book full of dedications and laudatory texts about his humanity and his art. Among them figure, by the way, one signed by Dimitri Ferschtman, the father of this other Liza with which he has just played in Madrid. An interview with Wolfgang Erk at the beginning of the book concludes with the question of whether he would like to reveal to his admirers what his life's motto is. Liza Leonskaja answered then with only three verbs: "Discern – Understand – Return". Fourteen years later, as he has just shown in Madrid with two of his young friends, he continues to make it his own.


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