Rave review Menahem PresslerNovember 6th 2012 Le Figaro
WITH PRESSLER, MOZART IS IN GOOD HANDS
by Christian Merlin
Nobody plays like legends of the piano such as Menahem Pressler or Aldo Ciccolini
What happened the other night to make the audience of Salle Pleyel stand up, with their eyes wet, showing gratitude and love to Menahem Pressler who had just played Mozart's Concerto No.27 ? Oh, I can hear your scepticism: you think we were touched to see a man of 89 y.o., towards the end of his career. Sorry to disappoint you. If we had tears in our eyes it is because nobody plays the piano like this today. That's all. Maybe we can think of one exception with Aldo Ciccolini, 87 yo, who just published a new Mozart CD on the label Dolce Vita.
What do they have that others don't? One has the impression, when hearing them, that we are transported in a lost paradise, something resembling the world of the past described by Stefan Zweig, This is obvious with Menahem Pressler. Maybe there was a few missing notes in a fast runs of notes but name one who is capable of putting so much music in one bar, in one single note?
Our piano stars, from Kissin to Lang Lang or Lugansky and Volodos, will not play Mozart before the public. They are expected in Liszt or Rachmaninov where one will admire a nice mechanical ability.In Mozart, it impossible to find a refuge behind virtuosity: only the soul remains. And the sound. Both are actually connected. And when Menahem Pressler, like Ciccolini, sets his hands on the keyboard, one has to realize that he is playing on the same instrument as the one heard in other concerts given at Pleyel, but it doesn"t have the same sound.
There are very few pianists in our era of uniformization who shape their sonority to the point of making it resemble the tone of a voice. The sound of Pressler the other night was endlessly warm, pure and tender. With an infinite delicacy and yet projecting in the entire hall: a confidence (in German "Geständnis") must be heard. This is the secret of great actors whose whisper can be heard through the last row. And when comes the slow movement, which almost announces Schubert in its art of reaching the nudity of emotion through simplicity, one knows that we are not only hearing a soul but a culture.
His secret: an entire life
Pressler grew up in the german speaking Mitteleuropa which was showing its last lights of civilization before being swallowed by the volcano. His masters? Eduard Steuremann, who premiered Schönberg's Pierrot lunaire, and Egon Petri, a student of Busoni. Interestingly, the teacher of Ciccolini, Paolo Denza, also studied with Busoni. This is a school of relaxation of the wrist, legato, naturalness, far from any tension and exageration of sound. This is why these men play as they do when approaching their ninetieth birthday. They would not play Rachmaninov's 3rd piano concerto, of course. So what? there are enough pianist who can do so very well. But they carry out a cultural heritage which they have received first hand.
For the full French version, please follow this link: : http://www.lefigaro.fr/musique/2012/10/30/03006-20121030ARTFIG00249-avec-pressler-mozart-est-entre-de-bonnes-mains.php
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