He opens with Beethoven's Sonata Op. 57, Appassionata, one of the works Beethoven wrote in response to his increasing deafness (Beethoven started writing it in 1804, the year after he came to grips with the irreversibility of his deafness). The opening of the first movement, Allegro assai, is poised with the grumbling in the bass a gentle disturbance. After the first eruption, Bijelovic successfully alternates quiet poise with manic energy. His performance is very poetic, he doesn't thump and the loud passages are vibrant rather than excessive. There is an impulsiveness to his playing with threads its way through the whole disc.
The piano has a clear, bright sound with a narrow tone and something of an edge to it, which gives great clarity to the textures and certainly does not impede the poetic line of Bijelovic's playing. Though I have to admit that, in common with many modern pianos, I found the top rather glassy.
Bijelovic opens the Andante con moto with a fine singing tone and a lovely dark texture. Bijelovic's rhythmic pointing increases as the theme develops, adding to the underlying disturbance, but he gives a very consoling undertow to the theme. With the final movement, Allegro ma non troppo - presto, Bijelovic brings in dark waves of passion underpinned by crisp articulation. But there is poised control as well and some very fine fingerwork. This is quite an extended movement but Bijelovic shows fine control of the overall structure and there is a brilliant ending.
I have heard darker readings of the sonata, Bijelovic's performance is all about the impulsiveness of passion rather than the darker inner reaches.
Giovanni Sgambati (1841 - 1914) was an Italian pianist. His arrangement of the Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice leaves Gluck quite a way behind, but the piece is lovely on its own terms. Bijelovic performs it with a poetic line and a fine web of decoration.
Chopin's Ballade no. 1 was written in 1831 during his early years in Vienna, it is a work full of the loneliness of being far from home. Bijelovic gives a lovely long line to the introduction. His opening statement of the first theme has a haunting tenderness which Bijelovic hints at even through the later, more bravura passages. There is a fluency and delicacy to the decoration and again a feeling of impulsiveness.
Though Bijelovic plays with a finely graded, poetic tone, there is a toughness there too and the feeling that passion can explode in a moment. Bijelovic combines discipline and poetry in his playing with and admirable tendency not to grandstand.
A second Chopin work follows, the Nocturne Opus 27, no.1 (written in 1835) which is regarded by some commentators as a ballade in miniature. It is given with poetic melancholy by Bijelovic with a lovely use of rubato, and there are hints of the mazurka in the more dramatic middle section.
Claire de Lune from Debussy's Suite Bergamasque (which Debussy started in 1890 when he was 28, but did not finish until 1905) is flowing and poetic but ethereal. Rachmaninov's Prelude Opus 23 no. 5 (written between 1901 and 1903) is marked Alla Marcia. Bijelovic's performance is redolent with drama and crisply dramatic rhythmic precision, alternating with flowing beauty. The result is very passionate but very controlled.
Finally Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (written in 1847) in a performance which typifies everything that we have heard so far, crisp rhythmic precision, rich drama and a wonderful impulsiveness which brings Liszts fantasy on Hungarian gypsy music to rich life.
And what of the first track? Bijelovic's spoken introduction works remarkably well and brings the performer that bit closer. Wisely he has kept it on a separate track so that on repeated listening you can skip it, if you so wish. But I do hope that he continues with the experiment.
The pieces on the disc are all linked by passion in its many forms. Bijelovic responds with superb technical facility combined with a finely poetic impulse. Highly recommended.
Elsewhere on this blog:
- Win tickets to Live by the Lake, Kenwood
- Grimeborn - Magic Flute
- The Bear goes Walkabout
- Stile Antico - Phoenix Rising - CD review
- Dinner opera at the diner - Roma and La Plus Forte
- Dai Fujikura - Flare - CD review
- Edward Cowie - Gesangbuch - CD review
- Svein Helbig - Pocket Symphonies - CD review
- Libera nos - cry of the oppressed - CD review
- Glyndebourne - Hippolyte et Aricie