Pianist Andrius Zlabys

My Saturday was full of music. It all started when I awoke, whereupon I practiced the piano for a few hours. Later in the afternoon, I attended a classical concert by pianist Andrius Zlabys, which was held in the home of a family friend. After that was a fiddler’s picnic (it’s a BBQ party where everyone eats, drinks, plays music, and has fun) which Ron Stewart, the man I studied fiddle with, holds in his backyard every year. Then my day was brought full circle with a get-together of friends at my house for a late night jam session.

In other words, it was exactly the kind of day I love.

But aah, I must discuss how much I loved the concert by Andrius Zlabys! He is a pianist from Lithuania, and recieved a Master of Music degree from Yale this past spring. The man is astounding at the keys… He played a nice mix of music:

Johannes Brahms
Intermezzos, Opus 117
No. 1 in E flat major
No. 2 in B flat minor
No. 3 in C sharp major

Ludwig van Beethoven
Sonata No. 17 in D minor, Opus 31, No. 2
“Tempest”

I. Largo; Allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegretto

J.S. Bach
Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of the Fugue)
BWV 1080

Contrapunctus No. 1
Contrapunctus No. 3
Contrapunctus No. 4

Sergei Prokofiev
Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Opus 84
I. Andante dolce
II. Andante sognando
III. Vivace

 

The first thing I noticed about Mr. Zlabys’ playing was the beautiful tones he coaxed from the piano, and how beautiful his movements were as well. European pianists in particular believe in the movements of the arms and wrists to create different tones and textures in the music, something which I find to be very true. I usually like to close my eyes at concerts, but on Saturday, I was torn; I wanted to close my eyes as I usually do, but I also wanted to watch Mr. Zlabys’ movements and fingers while he played (I settled for a bit of both). He did a marvellous job on Brahms’ Intermezzos, all three were lovely. The third opened with more angst than the previous two. The middle section had a lighter mood, before the music returned once more to the mysteriousness that the movement began with. 

The Tempest Sonata by Beethoven is well known and beloved by many (myself included). Andrius Zlabys did not dissapoint in his performance of it. The first movement, Largo; Allegro, opens with grand rolled chords, and the piece is off and running from there (a pattern which repeats itself througout the entire first movement). The music is absolutely explosive, and I thought Mr. Zlabys played it magnificently. His fingers flew over the keys like riders of Death among the wounded, yet his playing was never, never out of control. He played with such strength, yet also nimbleness and precision. The second movement, Adagio, was a brief period of peace before the Allegretto third and final movement. That, he played with absolute seamlessness, and built up the excitement perfectly. It was a joy to behold. Andrius Zlabys seems like a quiet and reserved man, but when he plays, he is nothing of the sort. I have never thought of pianists as actors, but after Saturday, I realized that playing the piano really is a form of acting… You’re telling a story and expressing something which you may not feel at that moment. What’s more, as a pianist (or any musician for that matter), sometimes even if you’re not feeling a certain way, you can get lost in the music and your mood can be changed by it.

Next, Mr. Zlabys played three Bach fugues. They belong to a collection titled “The Art of Fugue,” which is an incomplete work containing 14 fugues and four canons. I do not normally like fugues very much, only for the simple reason that they are rarely played well. I loved all three of them on Saturday. Mr. Zlabys hunched over the piano as though he were a crazed madman, albeit a genious at that. Well, he was actually… (A genius, not a madman).

Last on the afternoon’s program was Sonata No. 8 in B flat major, Opus 84  by Sergei Prokefiev. A remarkable work, it is full of fantasy and depth. Depth, like a vaporous black lake of unspoken dreams… Andrius Zlabys played the piece with fiery passion, and at times, seemingly rage. The second movement, Andante Sognando, was dancelike. It was charming and sophisticated, and his playing was the same. The last movement, Vivace, had a kind of pyschotic quality, and a ceaseless driving force which drilled itself inside your head. Once again, Andrius hunched over the keys, and I was blown away by his playing of this movement. The ending was pure madness, and by the time he finished playing, my entire body was quivering. I was on my feet in mere seconds, and I was pleased to see that I was not the only one.

Like I said, exactly the kind of day I love.

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