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A Muscular Performance to Ring Through Museum Halls 23 avril 2012

Posted by Acturca in Art-Culture, Turkey / Turquie, USA / Etats-Unis.
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The New York Times (USA) Monday, April 23, 2012, p. C 5

By Anthony Tommasini

The Turkish pianist Fazil Say’s performance at the Metropolitan Museum on Friday night was the only traditional piano recital presented in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium this season. That there was not a whole series of piano recitals represents a significant change in the institution’s musical offerings.

The museum is bringing a new vision to its music programming starting next season, the first planned entirely by Limor Tomer, its new general manager of concerts and lectures. Ms. Tomer spoke of her concept in a brief interview before Mr. Say’s recital.

« We are moving toward events originating from the building itself, » she said. « Genre-specific programming, » as she called it, meaning a series of piano recitals or voice recitals, is being phased out. Instead, concerts will be offered in conjunction with exhibitions and other museum projects.

Mr. Say’s recital was linked to the opening of the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia. So, as Ms. Tomer pointed out, even before her arrival the museum’s programming was shifting toward the new holistic approach.

But those genre-specific concerts have been quite popular. Lovers of the piano have heard many major artists at the Met over the years. If it ain’t broke, you could argue, don’t fix it. The changes are not at all in response to a decline in the popularity of traditional music programming, Ms. Tomer said, just a new concept that she hopes audiences will find rewarding.

For his recital Mr. Say, who is also a composer and jazz player, drew a large and enthusiastic audience. He opened with Janacek’s Sonata « 1.X.1905, » subtitled « From the Street, » a stunning two-movement piece that Janacek wrote in reaction to a wrenching event: a carpenter was bayoneted during a demonstration in 1905 to demand that the Austro-Hungarian government establish a Czech-language university in Brno.

Mr. Say brought improvisatory freedom and vivid colorings to this harmonically misty, elegiac and restless music, especially the somber second movement, titled « Death. » But to appreciate Mr. Say, you have to accept his exaggerated mannerisms and quirks at the piano, which included conducting phrases whenever a hand was free and humming audibly during lyrical stretches.

It was not his mannerisms but his steely tone and brutal approach that put me off his performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat. Especially in the final movement, a perpetual-motion exercise in repeated chords and relentless thematic bits, Mr. Say absolutely pummeled the piano. At least he held the tempo true and played with incisive attack until the hard-driving final section, which came off as a din of cluster chords and was something of a mess.

After intermission Mr. Say played his own works, including his popular « Black Earth, » inspired by the Turkish folk singer and poet Asik Veysel. In this piece Mr. Say vividly evokes the sound of hammered Turkish string instruments by damping the piano strings with his hand and striking the keys sharply to plunk out the melody. He drew hearty ovations for all of his pieces, including « Four Dances of Nasreddin Hodja » and « Istanbul Album. » For an encore he played his own jazzy take on Gershwin’s « Summertime. »

With the Met’s Islamic wing now among its most important assets, there should always be a ready thematic hook to bring Mr. Say to the museum for a performance. Ms. Tomer assured me that there will be lots of pianists in the future, though next season there is only one recital: the brilliant, brainy Christopher Taylor will play Messiaen’s complete « Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jesus, » an ecstatic, mystical and daunting set of 20 pieces, being presented as part of the holiday programming in the Medieval Sculpture Garden.

Online Correction: April 22, 2012, Sunday

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: A previous version of this article misquoted Ms. Limor Tomer when describing a series of piano recitals or voice recitals being phased out.

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