Ingolf Wunder's Vancouver performance displays a talent destined for fame

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      A Vancouver Chopin Society presentation. At the Magee Theatre on Saturday, February 26

      His name is a publicist’s dream. The Austrian pianist Ingolf Wunder is just 25 and attracting major attention, having won seven international contests and tied for second in the 2010 International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.

      He also recently signed a contract with Deutsche Grammophon. And, yes, he is indeed a wunderkind.

      Unlike almost all the other pianists in the Chopin Society’s current four-concert series, who fit only two or three pieces by the composer into their programs, Wunder offered a program that was all Chopin. Some of it was relatively minor, like the fluffy and rarely played Bolero in C Major, Op. 19, but all of it was played with ardour, finesse, and technical expertise to burn.

      Wunder seems destined for fame. The elegance, effortlessness, and maturity he has at his young age seem all but impossible, and his modesty is exceptional—this is no Lang Lang.

      The Nocturne No. 3 in B Major, Op. 9 was played with ineffable gentleness and beautiful control, while the popular Waltz No. 1 in A-flat Major, Op. 34 had that essential glamour of the French salon.

      One of the many things that stood out in Wunder’s playing, aside from his aristocratic tone, was his natural feeling for rhythm, with no exaggeration in his rubato—an element which, if overstressed, can leave you with a touch of seasickness.

      The four mazurkas (Op. 24) were deliciously played, especially the Erik Satie–like first and the exciting fourth one.

      There were also two of Chopin’s greater pieces: the Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 52, which was full of fire and ice with an explosive finale, and the fourth and finest of his scherzos, the one in E major (Op. 54), again showing Wunder’s incredible evenness of touch. The latter was as graduated as a string of pearls, and had a fleetness that many pianists would kill for.

      In a word, the concert was, well, wunderbar.

      There was also a poster exhibition in the lobby called “The Many Faces of Chopin”, consisting of more than 40 works designed by young artists and professors from the faculty of architecture and fine arts at the Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski Krakow University.

      The exhibition, which is travelling around the world, contains many stunningly original images. But the truest portrait of Chopin wasn’t visual—it was aural.

      Comments

      2 Comments

      Pathan Krakauer

      Mar 7, 2011 at 3:30pm

      "... the fourth and finest of [Chopin's] scherzos [showed] Wunder’s incredible evenness of touch."

      Well, I would say that this evenness didn't differ from that offered by other pianists at the Chopin's Warsaw Competition - and (judging by my own experiences) definitely not from that usually afforded by pianists from Poland or Russia. That's probably why Wunder's wasn't really noticed by the competition's adjudicators.
      Was it noticed by Mr. Dykk because so many of today's pianists do not possess it? If it were so, to me this remark would follow the approach of late H. C. Schonberg (the long-time chief music critic of the New York Times) who never failed to prize the deep, singing legato - in music of those few pianists who were able to achieve it.
      What I want to say is that nowadays, on the one hand, we eagerly display our knowledge of performing practice, yet, on the other, we often prize pianists who perform historic music without evenness of touch and ability to reach deep cantabile - the qualities considered absolutely indispensable by this music's composers. How really 'aware' are we?

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      Michael Moran

      Mar 15, 2011 at 12:22am

      Dear Pathan Krakauer

      I agree with your comments 100%.

      I kept a detailed blog of the competition at www.michael-moran.com

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