The recital by Javier Perianes (Nerva, 42 years old), last night in the Patio de los Arrayanes de la Alhambra, was a breath of fresh air. It was due to the ideal climatic conditions in which it developed, with a light breeze that made us forget the hot night of the previous day. For the incomparable setting of the piano adorned by the aquatic sparkles of the pool and the audience located in the shelter of the two myrtle massifs. But especially because of the thematic conception of a program, lasting 90 minutes without a break, which revolved around love and death, and which rose admirably between the pianist’s fingers.
It was the second of the three performances by Perianes in this edition of the Granada Festival, where he resides. In his first appearance, which took place on June 22, he performed as a soloist at the Piano Concerto de Grieg, and received the Medal of Honor for his “commitment to the festival and the dissemination of Spanish music.” The third performance will take place tonight, in the Patio de los Mármoles of the Royal Hospital, in which the Schumann piano quintet will play together with the Quiroga Quartet.
It is well known that the piano recital, as conceived by Liszt back in 1840, from theatrical monologues and poetry recitals, reproduces over and over again a fairly predictable format. The interest is concentrated in the virtuosity and musicality of the protagonist, since the repertoire is usually quite similar. It is true that in recent years there have been interesting experiments that add poetic, plastic and scenographic elements, but in the conception of the program lies part of the success of a good recital. And the listening itinerary that Perianes proposed last night proved it.
Your title, Love and death, comes from one of Goya’s whims, which inspired Enrique Granados, between 1909 and 1911, the penultimate movement of the piano suite Goyescas. But it also became the final scene of his homonymous opera, where Rosario holds Fernando mortally wounded after his duel with Paquiro. Around Granados, Perianes wove a network of relationships that connects Beethoven with Wagner through Chopin and Liszt.
The first stop on the program was the Sonata No. 12 in A flat major opus 26, by Beethoven, whose third movement bears the indication in Italian Funeral march to the death of a hero. Here it does not seem that any specific character is referred to but rather the composer’s desolation. Beethoven was immersed, in 1801, in a stormy relationship with Giulietta Guicciardi, but also in a process of reconsidering his piano sonatas. This led him to conceive an unconventional structure that starts with a theme with variations and ends in a carefree rondo, after a joke and the aforementioned funeral march. Perianes has already recorded this sonata, in 2011 for Harmonia Mundi, but his reading now sounds much more mature and cohesive. And not only because of the way in which each variation is individualized (true metamorphoses in his hands), but also because of the symphonic aspect that it adds to the funeral march. A movement that Beethoven later orchestrated, within incidental music to Leonore Prohaska, and even accompanied his coffin, in March 1827, through the streets of Vienna.
This Beethoven sonata was the favorite of Frédéric Chopin and served as a model for his Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor opus 35. The Polish composer started from his famous funeral march, which he had written in 1837, and placed two years later as the third movement of the work. Perianes has just published his recording of this sonata, also in Harmonia Mundi, but the version heard last night in the Patio de los Arrayanes was superior. Once again, the pianist tilts his performance towards the funeral march, which we reached after a Severe-Agitated, drawn with an imposing development, and a Joke fiery, where time stopped in the threesome Slower. It was a preview of what awaited us at the funeral march. I am not referring so much to the disturbing rhythm that this movement opens, which is the sonic prototype of the funerary, as to the bel canto aria of the central trio, in D-flat major, where Chopin seems to emulate the voice of Rubini, the great tenor of his time. Perianes transformed it into something volatile and ineffable that was the best of the night. The Presto In the end, with those furious octave triplets sweeping across the keyboard, it almost functioned as a connection to the rest of the show.
The ballad Love and death, by Granados, was located in the center of the five compositions, after the two sonatas, by Beethoven and Chopin, and before the final two pieces, by Liszt and Wagner. Perianes underlined the dramatic layout of the ballad, which represents the transition from life to death of a man in the arms of his beloved. And especially on the final page, with that indication of “happiness in pain” that precedes “the death of the majo”, along with the gloomy bells that close the work. Continued Funeral, by Franz Liszt, included in his collection of Poetic and religious harmonies. A composition, dated October 1849, the same month and year that Chopin died, but where the funeral takes on an official profile by paying tribute to the victims of the revolution that had torn Hungary apart the year before. In fact, today Chopin is thought to have written his funeral march for a similar purpose, in this case to commemorate the November Uprising of 1830 in his native Poland. The connections in this program are endless. Be that as it may, Perianes, who does not usually frequent Liszt’s music, revealed his natural link with these staves. He found tension and bravery, but also an ideal lyricism, which he underlined in the Slower almost at the end.
The show was closed with Liszt’s arrangement of Isolde’s love death, 1867, the famous ending of the opera Tristan and Isolde by Wagner. And we listen to an exquisite version, in the handling of the sound planes and the stolen, although without losing the symphonic will. In the end, everything was harmoniously resolved. However, Perianes added two tips to his recital. The first was the Nocturnal in C sharp minor posthumous opus which Chopin composed, in 1830, and which was published forty years later. A piece well known from movies like The pianist, by Roman Polanski, and where Perianes displayed his usual expressive magic.
But, to conclude, he reserved a surprising climax. And we hear the fourth and final piece Liszt wrote in connection with Wagner’s death, after the two versions of The gloomy gondola Y RW – Venice. I mean At Richard Wagner’s grave, a short composition of about three minutes for the 70th birthday that Wagner did not live to fulfill. In it, Liszt cites the theme Excelsior of his cantata The bells of the Strasbourg cathedral, which Wagner had used at the beginning of his opera Parsifal, but he returns the compliment by including the theme of the bells from that opera below. Almost as if it were something planned, the beginning of the work coincided, in the Patio de los Arrayanes, with the twelve chimes of midnight. And that reiteration of the aforementioned Wagnerian theme, in the hands of Liszt, added an almost mystical nuance at the end of the evening: a sharp C that lasted and remained suspended in the air, as if yearning for an afterlife.