No Sunday night blues
I am not fond of going out on a Sunday night; probably a vestige of my days of regular employment. I usually spend most of it grumbling and attempting to get the weekly accumulation of paperwork done. A piano recital on Sunday night would have had to be well worth getting out and about for. I was not let down. In fact I was captivated and enchanted, charmed and fascinated by Eric Himy’s performance last Sunday at the Manoel Theatre. Virtuosic technique apart, Himy is a splendid raconteur who illustrated his recital with anecdotes interspersed with original and pertinent information about each piece he performed.
Almost in the style of the incredible Anna Russell whose description of Wagner’s Ring will never be forgotten by whosoever has had the luck of listening to it, Himy’s descriptions of the pieces he played gave them that extra edge and reinforced the impression that no matter how involved and technically pyrotechnical a work was, he was playing just for you.
This is a great gift. It is a communication skill that one would give one’s eye-teeth to have. However one must marry up charm and what is called gift of the gab with erudition and this Eric Himy has in unstoppable abundance. His decision to subtitle his recital An American in Malta should have been a giveaway. A play on of Gershwin’s great work, An American in Paris, Himy spent the first part of the programme ‘proving’ by quoting letters and playing excerpts that Debussy was a great source of inspiration to the American composer who made a lady out of ragtime.
Besides the scheduled programme Himy inserted excerpts of Prokofiev’s Third Concerto, Wagner’s Liebestod, a John Field Andante and Rhapsody in Blue at the drop of a hat just to prove his point about the convoluted interrelation of music. I will not forget his La Plus Que Lente in a hurry; the way he performed this ultraslow waltz was literally breathtaking as was the magical L’Isle Joyeuse. If Eric Himy’s style of piano recital is adopted as the norm it will I am sure enhance the enjoyment and deepen the appreciation of good music to an ever increasing audience which is, in my book, a Good Thing.
Trends in music, like in everything else, get adopted as artists strive to successfully enchant and woo their public; for at the end of the day that is what all artists want. Some trends work and some don’t. It would be very boring if not frustrating were I to never exhibit my paintings. I need feedback like the proverbial Vitamin C and so do all those who, like me, create to make a living. While always trying to explore new ground there is nothing new under the sun and all we create is in some way derivative. What is different could be the interpretation however no matter how hard we try to be original someone will definitely find a source of inspiration somewhere. As the duchess in Alice said about morals, you can always find a model or a source somewhere. It is merely a question of looking for it. That is why Eric Himy’s approach to music is so successful. He unerringly balances erudition with anecdote and never talks down to his audience but convinces them that they are the most vitally important people there.
In the second half of the one man show cum piano recital we had a transcription of the Larghetto from the First Chopin Concerto which was utterly lovely especially as Chopin was not really a dab hand at orchestrating and the all piano version by Himy himself was, I daresay, more poignant than the original. To tide us over, or rather wean us from Gershwin, Himy performed a highly decorated and ornamented transcription of Summertime and some other works including a bit of Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto before working up to Chopin’s Fantasy-Impromptu and a poetic Mazurka before plunging us into the heroics of the A Flat Polonaise which was performed at an unusually breakneck speed that had us at the edge of our seats.
Linking Chopin to Liszt was an easy matter considering that they were born within a year of each other. In 2010 we celebrated the bicentenary of Chopin’s birth while this year it’s Liszt’s. I have a love hate relationship with this composer cum performer as occasionally his latter role takes the upper hand to the detriment of the former. However Lisztian works invariably go down a treat in a piano recital especially if they are performed with Eric Himy’s rumbustuous gusto and panache. His arrangement of the iconic Hungarian Rhapsody no 2 after Horowitz was electrifying as were the spate of encores that followed and which were rapturously received by an audience that just could not get enough.