Pianist Taka Kigawa has no qualms about performing in a nightclub like Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street, once the site of the celebrated Village Gate. He continues to amaze us with his undistracted service to the most uncompromising piano music being written today.
But that’s not all there is to his artistry. When we hear him perform the J.S. Bach “The Art of Fugue,” we realize how beholden he is to the great forebear of all the music that has come down the pike since his time, even a lot of jazz. Every note is clean and distinct, yet what we hear between the notes projects the great beauty that can be expressly felt on the piano of today, an instrument unknown to the Baroque master.
Kigawa is not one to lock himself into one or two styles. We’ve heard him perform Debussy with all the nuance of the Frenchman’s obsession with art that is antipathetic to the German approach. The oddly entitled Incises, e.g., is “cut” out of mists and watery matter, le ruisseau of the French valley, not the German Bach. Boulez, using the same title, has invoked his own contemporary sensibility.
Still the two works of Boulez and the one by Murail are descendants of Debussy’’s in their insistence on mysterious elements, though the two personalities are markedly different, Muail being more consistently playful in his musical notions that the often sterner Boulez. Kigawa seems to know them both intimately.
Even more demanding are the Etudes of György Ligeti with their stretch of wide-ranging moods and contours. Kigawa brings out these elements more forcefully than others whom we have heard tackle these challenging pieces.
The club attendees were obviously enthralled. You could not hear a swizzle stick clink or a cocktail pour while he played. What is it that draws these audiences to every venue he chooses? Well, his charm cannot be discounted. He loves to tease his listeners with standup comments, and we finally understood what he meant by the ‘hot number to come’ when he sat down and performed Debussy’s Fireworks as an encore.