Classical How to get a well-deserved ovation

How to get a well-deserved ovation

The Polish-born composer Frédéric Chopin is widely regarded as being the “father” of modern piano technique. In a wide-ranging programme, pianist Christopher Duigan explored this composer’s inimitable oeuvre. Chopin’s harmonic inventiveness, structural originality, melodic creativity, and initiative in exploring thematic and textural expansion were to the fore in this programme of old war-horses.

However, Chopin, a stand-alone genius, had the innate ability to combine these elements so that each work realised and communicated the creation of a poignant, emotional conception. In some spellbinding playing, Duigan highlighted and interpreted Chopin’s emotionalism. Duigan uses his mature technique in the service of artistic communication, transcending digital accuracy into the projection of musical thoughts and paragraphs. Though I must sound a word of caution: a gigantic programme such as this requires the harnessing of mental and physical stamina right until the final note has sounded.

Piling one colossal work on top of the other, it is a pity that this fine pianist did not give himself any respite, as some cracks in the edifice became apparent towards the culmination of this mammoth undertaking.

Total immersion
With consummate technical artistry, clearly delineated and tenderly shaped phrases, skilfully projected inner voices and rhythms, and judiciously applied rubato, Christopher Duigan’s first three works (Waltz in A flat Op 34/1, Mazurka in B flat Op 7/1 and Nocturne in F minor Op 55/1) revealed his total immersion and identification with Chopin’s repertoire and compositional idiom.

In the Barcarolle Op 60 and the Fourth Ballade Op 52 Duigan’s perfect blend of cognitive, physical and emotional aspects of performance showed his complete mastery over each crevice of the score. His shimmering ornamentation, translucent tone, capacity for creating a transparent texture and projection of structural understanding coalesced in performances of sheer magic. Here, Duigan revealed Chopin’s genius.

The phenomenal emergence of expressively carved cantabile lines from the rich homophonic tapestry of the third Etude Op 10/3 show that Duigan’s pianism is from the top drawer. This is also true of his power during a stunningly fleet-fingered coda which concluded the Étude in C sharp minor Op 10/4.

Well deserved ovation
Duigan’s phenomenal control in the middle section of the Scherzo in B flat minor allowed him to render with haunting beauty the exquisitely textured polyphonic thematic interplay. Moments such as these and the elegantly refined cantabile control in the opening theme of the Nocturne in C sharp minor op posth will stay with me for some while.

Congratulations Christopher Duigan on a well-deserved ovation!

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