Piotr Anderszewski is a Polish/Hungarian pianist with an unmistakable style at the piano, characterized by very quick changes between loud and soft. One moment he's playing a piece like a lullaby, then BANG BANG BANG, then quickly back to pianissimo. It's sometimes gentle, often muscular, and always clear and crisp. This unique style allows him to breathe fresh life into familiar works.
First up is Bach's Partita #2, which does not appear on his earlier Bach disc, Bach: Partitas Nos. 1, 3, 6. It sounds great, in part because it's a Bach we haven't heard before. Unlike most Bach interpretators of the past few decades who simply sidestep or ignore the long shadow that Glenn Gould has cast, Anderszewski seems to take some lessons from Gould. His Bach is often as crisp and clean as Gould's, but nowhere near as severe. There's more pedal, more color, and if these are, indeed, traces of Gould, Anderszewski incorporates them judiciously. The Partita's capriccio, especially, sparkles.
Anderszewski's version of "Faschingsschwank aus Wien" sounds how someone acquainted with his style would expect. Another reviewer may be able to chime in on how it compares with other recordings by the greats: Ashkenazy, Richter, etc.
Janacek's "In the Mists" may be the highlight of the recital, in part because it's not as well-known as the Bach and Beethoven. It sounds Debussy-esque, which is just about all the intelligent commentary I am able to make on the piece.
Anderszewski has recorded lots of Beethoven, including the Piano Concerto No. 1 and Bagatelles and Diabelli Variations. His Diabelli was even filmed as a documentary by the great musical filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon. The Beethoven sonata here, Sonata 31, Opus 110, is also available on Anderszewski's Bach/Beethoven/Webern disc.
Continuing his commitment to the music of his roots, Central and Eastern Europe, Anderszewski closes the recital with an encore of Bela Bartok's "Three Hungarian Folksongs from the Csik District." It's another gem of the disc, as melodious, introspective, plain and complex as the folk melodies that run through it.
In sum, a great variety of music from one the best pianists alive, including lots you probably haven't heard before.
According to a review of the recital in the New York Times, Anderszewski performed two additional encores, the Prelude from Bach's English Suite No. 6 and the Adagio from Mozart's Sonata in C minor, but these are not included here.
As a final note on the sound quality, the recording itself is excellent. Except for the applause at the beginning and end of some tracks, the tracks are largely free of the coughs, shuffles and noises that often plague live piano recordings. If you listen very closely on good headphones, you can hear them, but it's kept at a low level that makes you feel you're there in the audience, rather than distracting you from the performance.