Thursday, 1 November 2012

CD review - Viktor Bijelovic

Viktor Bijelovic
Viktor Bijelovic is a young pianist, born in Serbia and resident in London since the age of 11. He already has prizes in quite a few competitions under his belt and having recorded this CD of Chopin and Liszt in 2011, he has plans for a new CD next year.

This disc was recorded in the Jacqueline du Pre Music Hall in Oxford. The programme combines Chopin with piano music by his contemporary, Liszt. The two had an awkward relationship. Chopin envied Liszt's technique but found him frankly rather vulgar, with his showing off and his big piano sound. Liszt on the other hand envied Chopin's far wider range of colours at the piano but found his technique lacking.


Bijelovic has chosen a group of Chopin pieces all, except for the Nocturne, written in Paris. From the beginning of the Ballade, no. 3 it is obvious that Bijelovic produces a lovely clear piano sound, and the recording generally avoids that rather hard glassy quality at the top end of the keyboard. The Ballade is beautifully flowing with a lovely feeling for line.

The Grande Valse Brillante, Op. 34 no. 1 opens with a nice call to action and then Bijelovic spins cascades of notes in the delicate waltz. The playing is poetic but not etiolated, and delightfully skittish. Valse, Op. 34 no. 2 is entirely different to its companion, Bijelovic opens with some velvety smooth playing which develops into melancholy langour

In Nocturne No. 20, Op. Posth we get hints of the exotic amongst the fine tracery of notes, all controlled with subtle rubato. The Valse Op. 64 no. 1 is all lightness, charm and grace with its companion, Op. 64 no. 2 beautifully poetic.

Bijelovic's account of the Polonaise Op. 53 brings out the work's heel clicking grandeur, combined with nicely infectious and well pointed rhythms.

Dividing the Chopin from the Liszt is Bijelovic's own arrangement of Handel's Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, the result of an exercise set in Keyboard Techniques lessons during his studies at the Royal Academy of Music. It is a complete delight and sits nicely (if surprisingly) in the programme.

Light fingerwork and brilliance characterise his performance of Liszt's  La campanella, though here his is let down somewhat by the recording with the piano's upper octaves sounding a little hard and glassy. For the Liebestraum no.3 Bijelovic finds a nice singing line of melody amidst all the surface glitter. And his technique is fully equal to the demands of the Hungarian Rhapsody no. 6, bringing out the hints of exotic gypsy sounds and full of rhythmic intensity.

Bijelovic has a strong technique which clearly encompasses all the demands of the pieces here, but in all these I kept coming back to the poetic nature of Bijelovic's playing; and he strikes a fine balance, not too bloodless and not too muscular. Throughout he has a nice feel for the rubato needed, not self indulgent but not rigid either.

Viktor Bijelovic's website has more details on his forthcoming engagements. You can buy the CD from cdbaby.com amongst other sites.

There is a video of him performing The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba on Youtube.

Viktor Bijelovic: Piano
Chopin - Ballade no. 3
Chopin - Grande Valse Brillante Op.34 no.1
Chopin - Valse Op.34 no.2
Chopin - Nocturne no. 20 Op. Posth.
Chopin - Valse Op. 64 no. 1
Chopin - Valse Op. 64 no. 2
Chopin - Polonaise Op. 52
Handel (arr. Bijelovic) - Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
Liszt - La Campanella
Liszt - Liebestraum no. 3
Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody no. 6

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