Just when a listener succumbs to weariness, hearing all the latest glib young players and singers - often with genuinely gifted with fire but still a long, long ways off from their musical maturity; a genuine young artist comes along to refresh the ear. These discoveries put a spring in the inner-invisible step of the listening musical mind, musical commitment and musical intelligence awakening, revealing. These readings also generally do incredible service to human and global culture by lighting up the music room with a renewal of a composer's deep-wide musical genius. What musical treasures we have?
We've surely had no lack of professionals and amateur pianists, taking on the Chopin oeuvre.
That said, this Hungarian fellow, Gergely Boganyi? (b. 1974)
He's his own musical person, of course. Yet he clearly stands in a great line of prominent Hungarian keyboard performers - figures like Erno Dohnanyi, Annie Fischer, Gyorgy Cziffra, Geza Anda. Boganyi studied at the Budapest Music Academy, then moved on to the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, then to Indiana University Musical School in USA. By age 22, his local home town had formally lauded him as one of its leading citizens. It's looking like the local folks were shrewd and discerning, as Boganyi also that year won the International Liszt Competition in Budapest. Since then he has been recognized further with Hungarian music notice from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the Hungarian Gramafon Prize, and that dizzying height, the Hungarian Kossuth prize. Finnish Republic also gave him the Cross Merit of the White Rose. A Hungaraton label disc of Liszt violin and piano music - who knew? - won Grand Prix du Disque. His mentor at the Sibelius Academy, Matti Raekallio, seems to have been producer for this particular Chopin recital on Ondine.
He's made a name for himself, alright. More than once he's given a series of concerts, involving ALL of Chopin. (!!!!!)
This disc starts off with the Ballade in F Minor, then two nocturnes, two waltzes, and wraps up with the Opus 25 Etudes, one through twelve.
Boganyi is a striking and involved pianist, especially when it comes to Chopin. I could try to give a hint of his music making if I said that he sounds like a mix of the formal-interpretive phrasing edge of the late great Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, with the inwardness and depth we tend to associate with a great Czech pianist, Ivan Moravec. His Chopin rubato is quite passionate at times, and the waltzes benefit from his ability to let go without violating a convincing Chopin musical sense of what is what.
His way with the Ballade in F Minor immediate sets the stage for the recital. Opening lyrical passages have song, yet etch a sharper sense of line. The rhythm sets in with apt rubato, no exaggerated. Bass harmonies ramp up the shape and tension without disturbing the flow or the song at hand. When the full-throated Bel Canto duets and trios break forth, we are happy, yet aware of the impending cascades that will gather force. The return to quieter musical speech, sotto voce, at first heralds contrasts, but then shifts as various new harmonic colors open up. The closing rises up, moves off - into vast regions which fill and build inevitably into polyphony, expressed in more forceful, more florid Bel Canto singing lines. Then supersedes into full tilt, colorful - even vaguely ominous - climax.
In the twelve Opus 25 Etudes, he shows himself to be a young master of color, graded harmonies, and polyphonic foreground-background framing. Not one of the twelve loses their way. It is so easy to end up playing the set as keyboard exercises, almost against one's musical intentions. Or it is far too easy to reach for passing affects which temporarily catch the ear, but undermine the sense of the music, one effect after the other after the other effect. At times Boganyi allows some passages to nearly prefigure the later Debussy of the two books of Preludes. Yet nothing goes off kilter, and Chopin sings and dances, intact. This set of etudes is among the more involved, intelligent Chopin readings since Juana Zayas in her complete Etudes disc, at least.
After hearing this recital, I'm not tired of Chopin, I'm wanting to hear more. So varied is Boganyi's recreation of Chopin's myriad worlds. Boganyi moves fluidly and magically between Chopin's most private face, and his more social, more public gestures. I suppose something like this whetting of Chopin-esque appetites is what sustained audiences through those marathon Chopin concerts of Boganyi's past renown in Budapest? I've quickly move to order his other Chopin disc. I can hardly wait for the mail to arrive.
Meanwhile, five stars for this Chopin disc.