Monday, October 15, 2007

A terrific piano recital by Endre Hegedûs

The next time pianist Endre Hegedûs comes to town, you ought to hear him. The Hungarian virtuoso gave a spectacular recital at the Old Church on Friday evening (Oct. 12) of works by Chopin and Liszt, including a rarely heard Liszt fantasy of Bellini’s “Norma” and a Liszt transcription of Wagner’s “Tannhaueser.” Hegedûs plays with a style that makes the piano sing and at the same time has a genuine, earnest feeling.

Hegedûs masterfully controlled the tempi and volume to create a warm and fluid sound that worked well for Chopin’s”Nocturnes” (No. 1 in B flat minor and No. 2 in E flat major). Hegedûs easily expanded the dynamic range for his interpretation of Chopin’s Sonata in B minor and the Polonaise “Heroic” in A flat major, making an impressive statement that ended the first half of the program with verve.

The second half was devoted to Liszt. Hegedûs interpreted “At the stream” with grace and elegance. He then polished off a terrific rendition of the “Mephisto Waltz No. 1” with all of its knuckle-crunching sounds ringing about. Hegedûs then delivered a nostalgic and poignant “Forgotten Waltz No. 1,” which evoked the dance-like atmosphere from ballrooms of an earlier era.

Hegedûs‘s playing of Liszt’s “Norma – Grand Fantasy” was very dramatic and beautiful and may have been the best piece of the evening. This piece contains seven melodies from Bellini’s opera and Hegedûs brought all of them forward wonderfully. The Liszt transcriptions of two themes from Wagner’s Tannhaueser (Walfram’s “Romance to the Evening Star” and “The Entry of the Guests”) was performed by Hegedûs with remarkable depth and clarity. (This makes me think that there should be a way to promote Portland operas with piano transcriptions.)

The audience rewarded Hegedûs with a standing ovation, and he responded with an encore, Bartok’s “Evening at the Village.”

PS: Hegedûs didn’t hum or make other sounds while he was playing. André Watts, in his most recent recital in Portland, has taken up this annoying habit.

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