A program that is challenging, demanding bravery, skill and confidence. Does Taka Kigawa rise to the difficulty of this encounter? This was the question in my mind as I entered the Chelsea Art Museum with my friend Dan Cooper. We were impressed with the program on paper, but would this daring pianist pull it off. Below are some of my impressions of this concert and after that the answer to this question.
The concert started off with Debussy Etudes book 1. The first movement, based on Czerny, is colorful and witty, taking Czerny out of the box, played with precision. Second movement has great chords built on 3rd's, very romantic. The 3rd movement is not as focused as the previous but vivid. In the fourth I find the harmonies to be immensely gorgeous. The extreme difficulty of the 5th movement is apparent but it is performed with what one can only describe as ease. The sixth is a perpetual motion piece in which Debussy advises the pianist not to use the thumbs. I always knew he was an anti-thumbist, though Taka showed me here, with this performance, that that is not such a bad thing.
We continue this concert with Pierre Boulez’s Incises. This music is full of energy and the transition form Debussy is not a far stretch. The colors are similar and the piano writing is expert. The lack of coherent melody and harmony was a contrast though, but a good programing decision. It is exciting music but it does contain a lot of the 20th century “new music’ clichés: sudden low rumbles, awkward outbursts, odd gestures, strange stops and gaps, gestures that sound difficult for difficult sake, etc. But Boulez does have a distinct voice, and overall the music is good. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I was more familiar with this piece and heard it many times before. As far as I can tell Taka rocked this thing, even though if he did make mistakes, there is no way for me to know. But in a piece like this the important elements are: energy, confidence, control, and an overall musicality. In Taka’s playing all those components were present.
Gyorgy Ligeti’s Piano Etudes are considered to be some of the most difficult piano pieces out there. Taka Kigawa tackled book 1 and here are my impressions. Movement 1 "Désordre": complicated rhythms, wonderfully angular melodies. Almost like a latin Montuno piano rhythm with 20th century harmonies. Feelin’ it! Movement 2 "Cordes à vide": What can one do with the 5th interval? One can create a beautiful etude. Movement 3 "Touches bloquées": In this etude some fingers are pressed down on the keys but are not played creating some brilliantly complex rhythms and original material. Movement 4 "Fanfares": Again, complex rhythms, as if the 2 hands are playing separate pieces, very effective. Movement 5 "Arc-en-ciel": A pretty melody gets progressively more complex, yet keeping a charm throughout. Movement 6 "Automne à Varsovie": This piece is structured like African music where a melody is played in 4 different voices in different metric values, creating beautiful poly-rhythms and harmonies. Taka played all these movements with great skill and precision and it was most impressive.
So the answer to the above question of whether Mr. Kigawa pulled this difficult program off is: absolutely! And with an air of ease about it as well. But wait, what is this? an encore? can it be a difficult encore? yes it can, and it was. Taka came back to play a portion of Stravinsky’s Petrushka arranged for solo piano. This is a very difficult arrangement which few dare to program let alone do as an encore. But Taka played it great! There were a few moments where the ease factor of before went missing but it was just a reminder that this whole program was very difficult and virtuosic, so don't try this at home kids!