Last week I tried to get inside Toronto pianist Boris Zarankin’s head regarding his hauntingly still performance of two Schubert piano sonatas (details here). Then I heard him play the A minor Piano Sonata D. 784 at Off Centre Music Salon on Sunday, as I and the rest of the audience at Glenn Gould Studio sat mesmerized.
This really was a translation into music of much greater existential issues, of the undying wonder people have of the meaning of life, and how death is an unbidden yet inevitable visitor.
Zarankin told me how his ideal piano sound for the sonatas was inspired by hearing the golden hues of the Vienna Philharmonic performing at the Musikverein. He describes Schubert’s piano music in symphonic terms, and tries to tease out a layered sound like the one created by many different instruments playing together.
I couldn’t help mulling this over after sitting through a stunning performance of Schubert’s final quartet, the G Major, D.887, by New Orford Quartet at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at lunchtime yesterday (the quartet is on their Juno-nominated album). Besides the thrill of seeing and hearing four high-powered principals from the Toronto and Montreal Symphony Orchestras playing as one, I was struck by how these four artists were also able to suspend time and capture this listener’s attention with a semblance of complete stillness.
Had Zarankin been there to play Schubert on the piano, we would have found the interpretations uncannily similar.
I can only come to one conclusion after this: Boris Zarankin is right, and the pianists who try to inject overt virtuosity and forward motion into their interpretations may have to think again.