fri 18/09/2020

Chopin Unwrapped, Martino Tirimo, Kings Place | reviews, news & interviews

Chopin Unwrapped, Martino Tirimo, Kings Place

Chopin Unwrapped, Martino Tirimo, Kings Place

The great Cypriot pianist ends his Chopin marathon in high encyclopedic style

So most of us blinked and missed Martha Argerich gliding into Kings Place's Argentine celebrations last week. Yet here I am writing again about this liveliest of venues' Chopin marathon, and like a would-be Prommer who joins the last night party without having been to the Albert Hall more than once in the season I'm culpable of marking the grand finale after experiencing only a slice of modest Cypriot pianist Martino Tirimo's 10 concerts devoted to our bicentenary boy. Never mind: both the encyclopedic recitals I did hear seemed to take us through a turbulent lifetime. That would be true just of the essence, the 24 Preludes which concluded last night's strange adventure. But there was much, much more to feel and think about.

Tirimo's diffident if concentrated demeanour belied the fractures and the tortured rhythms that were there from the start in his full-toned but uneasy mazurkas (early ones, this time, but no less quirky than some of the experimental later masterpieces). Even the Bolero which can seem such fun in more superficial performances had more of a dance-of-death quality about it than usual. But then came the heart of the hour-long first half: the second of the three Impromptus. What an astonishing piece is this F sharp reverie, starting with a simple song that very soon goes off the rails, receives unexpected consolation - of which the programme as a whole was, up to that point, much in need - from poised chords in the upper register and goes on to reveal beneath its surface a juggernaut processional before some kind of serenity can be restored.

Three early waltzes also troubled the soul, and finally Tirimo let rip with the hallucinatory cascades of the first, B minor Scherzo, crystal clear but none the less weighty and terrifying. It would have been enough for most pianists, but more soul-scouring was to come in Part Two. It began with an evanescence the rest of Tirimo's playing to that point had hardly so much as hinted at, the 52nd A flat afterthought of a prelude with its unexpected penultimate harpings on a flattened-note interloper, and culminated in the great Op 28 sequence of 24.

All human life, at least as Chopin understood it, is here, and Tirimo was determined not to drop a stitch of tension, other than one central pause, between these still-shocking numbers. Minor-key turbulence often follows major affirmation, and even - in the misleadingly nicknamed Raindrop prelude - sneaks in underneath. Tirimo kept both this and the two most famous outpourings of grief on a tight rein, leaving it all to careful dynamic grading and the subtlest of rubato to humanise marbled elegies. And, yes, the impact was cumulative, like a great symphonic trajectory. Celebration of what it is to live, suffer and be consoled, or an unrelenting image of man crushed by fate? While Tirimo's visage for once seemed to harden and age under the sheer weight of concentration, the underlying vitality suggested that life triumphs after all, even down to the last tolling bell. As in the previous recital I caught, we had the C sharp minor Waltz as encore, but this performance was utterly different from the last one, carrying with it the weight of all that experience. A colossal feat, in expressive as much as purely statistical terms.

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