Area music lovers owe Meredith's Music Department a great deal for lots of memorable performances, over the years, and among the very best have been a decade-long series of recitals by Walter Hautzig. He was in town this week for talks and masterclasses and a big concert that would surely have exhausted many fine players half his age. If that weren't enough, he exudes wit and charm in almost everything he does — he reminds me of Arthur Rubinstein in many respects — and he knows so much and has traveled so widely that he can relate just about any piece of music to something or some event of significance (or, at least, of interest...).
The occasion of this latest visit to Raleigh was the 200th anniversary of Chopin's birth, which is being saluted, feted, celebrated and otherwise observed this week in a huge festival, for details of which see http://www.meredith.edu/music/chopin/. He need not have played only Chopin, of course — Ann Schein didn't restrict herself the night before — but why not, when you're Hautzig? He's one of the greatest living exponents of Chopin (and just about anybody else he chooses to play), and he remains virtually at the top of his game. Hearing him is always revelatory, for he re-creates this music in ways that few others can. For this listener, he comes closer to revealing the truth of Chopin than any other artist playing today.
And what a program! The formal lineup — there were also two encores — embraced two nocturnes (in B-flat minor, Op. 9/1, and in C-Sharp minor, Op. Posth.), two preludes (in D-Flat, Op. 28/15, and in G minor, Op. 28/22), six waltzes (in F minor, Op. 70/2, E-Flat, Op. 18, D-Flat, Op. 70/3, in C-Sharp minor, Op. 64/2, in A-Flat, Op. 69/1, and in E minor, Op. Posth.), the Ballade in G minor, Op. 23, three mazurkas (in C, Op. 24/2, in D, Op. 33/2, and in B-Flat, Op. 7/1), the Berceuse, Op. 57, the Polonaise in C minor, Op. 40/2, and the Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise in E-Flat, Op. 22. These pieces cut a broad swath across Chopin's life and career, and Hautzig delivered each of them with authority and insight. The most familiar items seemed reborn in his hands while the less familiar emerged as radiant little gems. The large-scale Ballade has in other hands seemed somewhat more of a piece, but Hautzig brought tremendous insight to its component parts, and because the marginally larger concluding number was powerful in its sweep and dynamics one must think the comparatively soft-spoken approach to the Ballade was intentional. For the rest, the insights were abundant, and the artist's remarks were consistently engaging. Here's hoping that Hautzig's long association with Meredith can continue for many years.
This program was made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Karen Allred and Jack Griffith. And the whole festival might not have been mounted but for seed funds and encouragement from Rebecca Bailey, Dean of Meredith's School of the Arts. The availability of Meredith's superior facilities and logistics helped too, of course, and the support of the college's theatrical technical staff provided the icing on the cakes that weren't eaten at the receptions. It's all a very big deal. It's been said that Chopin's music doesn't add up to more than 15 or 16 hours, all told. Virtually all of it, as printed music, fits a single CD-Rom distributed by Presser. As large as this Festival is, it might just as well have encompassed the complete works. As it is, the representation is amazing in every respect.
Other reviews of Walter Hautzig in CVNC may be seen at http://www.cvnc.org/reviews/2005/022005/Hautzig.html and http://www.cvnc.org/reviews/2002/january/WalterHautzig.html.
This remarkable Chopin Festival continues through February 27. See our calendar for details.