Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Review - A View From All Angles, Jan Lisiecki, #BristolProms

Yesterday a friend got in touch with regard to a spare ticket he had to one of the launch events of a series of "#BristolProms" season being hosted by the Old Vic. Inspired by Promenade concerts held in the historic theatre in the early 1800's, each performance also features a twist designed to open up the music to a wider audience - and to encourage to feel and experience it new or different ways.

It may seem odd to perform music in a theatre space, but the intimacy of the 18th century space was perfect for a Piano recital, allowing the audience to get closer to the internationally acclaimed Lisiecki than at many of his concerts. At only 18, he has already been performing for 9 years, has three albums under his belt and a globe-trotting schedule.

The performer was filmed from several angles and the footage was live-edited into a presentation on a screen behind him. This featured a range of black and white images of Lisiecki and his instrument - in stark contrast to the warmth of the wood of the piano or the splash of colour his socks provided - as well as a computer generated rendering of him.

This latter effect - which substituted Lisiecki's image with a grid of triangular cells - put me in mind of the images generated when motion capture technology is used in Cinema. At times, the grid was tighter and closer to the human form, at others it was more abstract. As the concert proceeded, more use was made of this - and in some of the more dramatic pieces the images seemed to crackle with the intensity of an electric storm.

At its best, the division between the performer and his piano dissolved, as the two became one and the music became all. That said, Lisieski was always in complete control and, as the music demanded, could switch from heavy, thumping chords to delicate melodies without missing a beat.

The programme was Bach's Partita No.1 - a suite originally written for Harpsichord - followed by two series of Chopin's √Čtudes (Op. 10 and Op. 25). Whilst the Bach was listened to and applauded politely the audience came alive for the Chopin and, having been instructed to clap as and when they wanted, greeted each study warmly. In so doing, they established a virtuous cycle as Lisieski put more of himself into each piece.

As well as the video screen, some pieces were accompanied by lasers but these distracted more than enhanced the experience. My feeling was that these could have been used to better effect had there been more of them more gainfully empolyed.
 
All in all, though, the experience was very enjoyable - and the concept of live-mixing a backing video and using computer generated effects is one that could benefit from being further experimented with. Always, though, with the proviso that the classics are classics for the reason - and the music, and musician, must remain the star.

Here is Lisiecki with one of the pieces from last night, Study 4 for from Chopin's √Čtudes Op. 10:



Andrew

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