Fabio Bidini's understanding of Chopin is clear, and his performing style mesmerizes.
Italian pianist’s flight with Chopin proves inspiring
A YEAR AGO, Italian pianist Fabio Bidini came to Hawaii to play Dohnányi's "Variations on a Nursery Song" with the Honolulu Symphony, striking the audience with his skills, wit and musicianship. Friday he returned, and I thought I was prepared for his interpretation of Chopin's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 (1830). Truth is, he astonished the audience even more than expected with his superb interpretation.
In concert: 4 p.m. today
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall
Tickets: $15 to $65
Call: 792-2000 or visit www.honolulu symphony.com
Just watching his hands is mesmerizing. Without unnecessary gestures but with subtle movements and amazing ease, they are in control of the keyboard from the moment the music starts. Bidini plays with great musical power but with no complacency or overly romantic tones. Still, his understanding of Chopin is obvious: He flies, but he ponders.
The first movement starts with an orchestral introduction, and then it's all about the piano. Chopin wrote this and the second concerto to affirm himself as a virtuoso when he was 20, and composing for orchestra was not really his preference. Still, there is a certain richness in the orchestral material. And it is up to the conductor to bring it out.
ROSSEN MILANOVCQ led the symphony with a polished yet enthusiastic interpretation of the concerto. His ample movements seemed to embrace the whole orchestra, but his precision led to a balanced presentation of the young Chopin's work.
Milanov also led the orchestra in a terrific performance of Debussy's "Prélude à L'après-Midi d'un Faune" (1894). Starting with Susan McGinn's smooth solo flute, the piece turned on the instrument's colors and shades. This work focuses on luminosity, and Milanov's interpretation never lost this dreamy characteristic so typical of Debussy. Even in the middle section, where Debussy suggests a fortissimo volume, the orchestra did not exaggerate, keeping the overall timbre subtle.
Rossen Milanov conducts the Honolulu Symphony's performance today at 4 p.m.
The second part of the concert included Rimsky-Korsakov's symphonic suite "Scheherazade" (1888). Colorful orchestration is the main focus in this four-part work as well, and Milanov combined balance and power with great elegance. The musicians showcased their instruments in this musical representation of the "Book of the One Thousand and One Nights."
Throughout the work, the sultan's character is presented with a four-note theme built on a whole-tone scale (made up only of whole steps) and dominated by the brass. Scheherazade's predicament is reflected in a theme played enchantingly by Ignace Jang's solo violin and accompanied by harpist Constance Uejio's light touch. Particularly notable also were the performances of first cellist Mark Votapek, oboist Scott Janusch and bassoonist Paul Barrett.
All told, this is a concert that cannot be missed.
Valeria Wenderoth has a doctorate in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.