Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jeffrey Biegel plays Chopin Andante Spinato

Yesterday pianist Jeffrey Biegel posted his work on Chopin's Andante Spinato in a recording made in his home "reviewing this lovely work for the weekend's performance with orchestra:"

Biegel is one of the more enterprising and technologically flexible pianists on the scene. I had the opportunity to work with him a few times in the late 90s at The Music Festival of the Hamptons and have reviewed his playing in the Hartford Courant. He has a unique pianistic voice and a professional presence that is refreshing and often unexpected. Who knows where, or through what medium, he will next appear?

This video was a welcome surprise this morning.

Until recently domestic music making was largely undocumented. A great deal of what is out on the net could perhaps have remained undocumented even for its occasional sweetness. But this video is a great example of a digital invitation to hear a professional pianist think through a familiar work.

The Andante Spinato is an essay in prolonged ecstasy. The opening section of this song without words is set in three verses: in G major [0:11], an embellished restatement [0:30], and an excursion through e minor [0:52]. Biegel spins effortless lyricism.

[1:30] brings back the opening verses in G major with a continued sense of notated improvisation. One of my favorite parts of this recording is the restatement at [1:51] where Biegel voices up the unexpected companion that joins the melody. Gorgeous playing.

This larger section dissolves in winding figuration [2:15]. Biegel finds musical humor in the fragments appended like an after-thought [2:38] that allow this section to land.

The wonderful central chorale in C major, marked "semplice" begins at [2:45]. Biegel is paying attention to details in the notated phrase groupings that differ in the right and left hands. He also makes the triplets sound as unexpected and odd as they actually are [3:11], often pianists attempt to make them sound "normal."

The winding figuration of the codetta that closed the first section returns [3:40]. This section makes the semplice sound like a daydream. And were it not for the reappearance at [4:11] one could be convinced that it was imaginary.

All pianos on the east coast are stressed from the heat and humidity we have felt all month. "The hammers have been filed and re-shaped and need some voicing" said Biegel. The upper register tuning is not perfect. But this video is not about perfection, it is about sharing. Sharing is its own perfection.

"Just me, at home," says Biegel in the uploader's comments. Biegel is more than "just."

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