David Greilsammer | Ravinia Festival | Classical | Chicago Reader
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David Greilsammer 

When: Fri., Aug. 17, 6 p.m. 2012
Price: $10
This year's Baroque Conversations (Sony Classical) was the first album I heard by Israeli pianist David Greilsammer, but as I've since learned, its inventive program is typical for him. It consists of four carefully considered sequences of three pieces, each of which sandwiches a bracing contemporary composition between two Baroque works. On paper that hardly sounds that radical or weird, but bear in mind that most of the mainstream classical world has an aversion to contemporary music (it doesn't sell tickets the way Mozart and Beethoven do), to say nothing of programs that matter-of-factly leap three centuries forward and back. Greilsammer finds commonalties in the pieces he groups together: in one instance, he bookends Morton Feldman's stark "Piano Piece" (1964) with Jean-Philippe Rameau's rollicking "Gavotte et Six Doubles" (1728), a series of six variations on a French court dance, and Antonio Soler's Sonata No. 84 in D, a richly ornamented 18th-century work by the onetime music tutor of Prince Gabriel of Spain. He moves through each three-part episode with only the shortest of pauses, almost acting like a DJ segueing from track to track—except he's the one playing everything, with an exact, sure-handed touch. One of the most exciting compositions is Whaam! (2009), an alternately wistful and driving piece by Israeli composer Matan Porat that's inspired by a Roy Lichtenstein diptych depicting an aerial dogfight—it ends with a ferocious slamming shut of the fallboard over the keys, which fits the work perfectly but still stuns me every time I listen to it. Tonight's program includes the Feldman and Porat pieces, plus modern compositions by Helmut Lachenmann and Gyorgy Ligeti and classical and Baroque works by Mozart, Couperin, Schubert, and Froberger. —Peter Margasak



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