|Leszek Możdżer at the Kings Place soundcheck
Photo credit and copyright Monika S Jakubowska/ MSJ Photos
Leszek Możdżer solo piano
(Kings Place Hall One, 24 May 2017. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
(ALSO SEE UPDATE: Six more photos of Leszek Możdżer at Kings Place )
Kings Place Hall One was completely sold out in advance of this show, and a mostly young and appreciative audience had gathered. One could sense that feeling of strong connection and excitement in the hall: I found myself sitting next to one happy adoptive Londoner from Leszek Możdżer‘s home town of Gdansk, who was also completely captivated by the show. At the end, there were any number of people happy to take their patient place in the long queue for CD signing and selfie. Możdżer, utterly charming, acquiesced to every request for one – or the other.
I’m looking forward to seeing how Monika S. Jakubowska’s photos capture the vibe of the whole event. She was there from sound-check onwards. Mozdzer does set an interesting challenge for photographers, though: his long hair keeps his facial expressions almost completely under wraps…
….which perhaps is a way to make more people stop thinking about the pointless task of taking photos, and to concentrate on what is going on musically. The first thing one notices is the clarity of his intent, the natural desire to make the music’s flow understandable. I thought of Jorge Bolet, that master of lucid playing who once said (guess what, wonderfully clearly): “It is a performer’s responsibility to do what will best put across the piece he is playing.”
Yes, Możdżer may hide his face, his remarks about what he does are flippant and funny, but he is a great communicator who does take that responsibility seriously. His playing always has a very strong sense of foreground and background. With his astonishing dexterity and control the first thing he does is to set up a consistent framework for the piece, so that the melodic line he wants to bring over – or at other times the ridiculously fast Art Tatum-style runs – have an understandable context. It is not pedantic, it is just helpful for the listener. The backgrounds are chosen with care: one piece had a kind of languid, Chopin-esque barcarolle feel, Libertango had an accented cross-rhythm; Polska was more rock-anthemic.
Możdżer is faced with the challenge of a number of successful European pianists, which is to make the solo piano recital into a viable offering for playing larger halls, basically to think bigger. From having heard two others relatively recently – the Belgian Jef Neve (review) and the Frenchman Baptiste Trotignon (review) it is fascinating to see how many different ways there are. Of the three, Neve leaves the essence of pianism furthest behind – he thinks orchestral – while Trotignon tries to be the most varied (I loved the jazz playing but had to wait a long time for it). But Możdżer is the one who can hold the attention best. I loved the clever irony of this aside: “I’m going to play a ballad now – you can all go to sleep.”
As Możdżer played his encores, I was wondering if he had read my mind. Kings Place Hall One is bristling with electronics. The technical spec of this hall is unbelievable: tech companies with names beginning with Goo… and App… hold product launches in it. The venue also has a very good sound team. It is all there to be used, and Możdżer did deliver most of the programme through the speakers. I guess in larger halls he needs to. But Hall One was designed for classical music to be played acoustically, and for his final offering, all of the technology was switched off. We could delight in Chopin – the Revolutionary Etude delivered with a hurricane of passion – and then the serenity of Bach/ Busoni – both with the unaltered sound of the Steinway “D” coming at us from the middle of the stage. A great show that held the attention from start to finish.
SET LISTS (original compositions unless stated)
Medley: Land of Oblivion – She Said She Was A Painter
Prelude in C minor – Chopin
My Secret Love / Prelude 26 (Fain/Webster and Chopin)
Etude No.2 (Lutoslawski)
Svantetic (Krysztof Komeda)
Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode)
Suffering (Lars Danielsson)
Revolutionary Etude (Chopin)
Improvisation on Bach/Busoni Choral Prelude “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen” BWV 734