Boffard not only plays Schoenberg Piano Music with great clarity and style but he also provides a DVD in which he analyses the music and then adds a history of Schoenberg's development as a composer. This combination is adventurous and exciting.
You could hardly do better if you feel a bit intimidated by Schoenberg - or rather the idea of Schoenberg - than approach his world under the guidance of Florent Boffard. The disc takes you through his complete piano oeuvre, placing the early Brahmsian pieces at the end and starting where he began his own trajectory into twentieth century music. The first set of pieces - opus 11 - are quite substantial, moving towards atonality but not there yet. They are profoundly expressive, no. 2 in particular standing out for its ominous bass writing set against more yearning, expansive shapes in the right hand. The opus 19 set are particularly brief utterances, often little over 30 seconds, and written with an engaging transparency, before the two biggest sets, opus 23 and 25. The first seems the most poetic of all on the disc, while the second is more formalised - at least to my own novice ear - with clear signposts to Baroque models in the titles of the pieces, which look on paper like a Bach suite except for the Intermezzo that refers to Brahms, presumably. Certainly one feels Brahms to have been an enormous influence on him, and Bach also in the contrapuntal writing. The music being somewhat difficult to understand (but not to listen to once you have immersed yourself), the disc comes with a 45-minute DVD in which Boffard explains the developments in Schoenberg's writing. He demonstrates and takes the motifs apart at the keyboard, and does graphic demonstrations on a whiteboard which are then highlighted as he plays. Presented with optional English subtitles, it is a brilliant introduction by someone who obviously has a kind of vocation to play this music, and manages to make everything completely accessible without a sense of simplifying. It is probably the best place to start, even before listening to the CD: Boffard is a delightful teacher and you feel expanded and illuminated thanks to his insights and wonderful expression. He makes you feel it is a privilege to have the desire to get to grips with Schoenberg, that this really is the human spiritual endeavour at its most noble. The excerpts he closes with, from a speech by the composer, are an inspiring summation of what art is for.
One person found this helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?