It’s a truism that some artists are different in live situations than on record. The presence of an audience can inspire & illuminate a performance in a way that doesn’t happen in a studio.
That’s what I experienced tonight. When I met Beatriz Boizán a few days ago –a chance encounter at a concert, after interviewing her—she very kindly gave me a copy of her CD, knowing I’d be coming to see her play at Gallery 345 tonight. That CD gives me a wonderful gateway—and a good excuse—to explore her music further. I’ll talk for now about the adventure of tonight’s concert, and delve deeper when I speak of the CD in a few days.
Forget your usual assumptions. We associate big loud piano sounds with big guys like Garrick Ohlsson. When you see Beatriz Boizán as I first saw her (at a concert), she’s simply a charming woman, not very big, but pretty. One might be lured into patronizingly thinking “oh yes she’s pretty and her music will be pretty”. The photos give you an idea of course. Boizán wore Rosemary Umetsu couture, a different gown for each half of the concert.
But the concert was physically demanding, a lot of pianistic heavy lifting. Boizán has a powerful sound that she unveils at times when she’s not employing one of the cleanest staccato deliveries I’ve ever heard. Her line is pristeen, notes perfectly separated. She is a player of power & wonderful stamina, so that I realize that she was very much like an athlete in her Umetsu couture, effortlessly hurdling the challenges in her virtuoso program (and forgive me if the V word is so overused as to be meaningless).
It was a mostly Latin-themed program, a reflection of allegiances & cultural heritage. Closest to home for Boizán? How about Ignacio Cervantes, a Cuban composer that I feel I should know better, and one that I am looking forward to exploring further (he’s new to me). We heard six charismatic Selections from Danzas Chubanas, including “Los muñecos”. How have i lived this long without hearing this fun piece? There are several versions on youtube, none of a virtuosity to match what we heard from Boizán. This little clip gives you an idea (although I prefer the sound of her two hands to their four, charming as they may sound).
Boizán also gave us Albéniz, Lecuona, her own dazzling transcription of de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” and as an encore, Ginastera’s “Danza Del Gaucho Matrero” (if I got the name right), a wonderfully dissonant piece that sounds like something Debussy would have written had he been kidnapped by gauchos.
The concert opened with Haydn’s last piano Sonata, played with great lucidity. The last movement was especially original, offering us an approach to the voices that brought out their song-like quality in spite of –or at the heart of—the counterpoint. I love that she compels me to go back to the piece, now that i’ve heard it in a completely new way.
To close the first half of the program Boizán gave us a pair of well-known showpieces from Franz Liszt, namely his “Sonetto #104 del Petrarca” and the “La Campanella” etude, not as the usual show-off show-stopper, but in both cases with more genuine emotion and love than i’ve ever encountered in those pieces.
I suppose I should return to the idea with which I open, concerning live vs recorded. Boizán defies expectation, even after you’ve heard her crystal clear playing on the CD, because in person her passion infuses the music –especially the Latin themed compositions that are close to home—with additional life. I’ve never heard so much power from such a sweet little person, sometimes playing with her eyes closed for long periods of time. And then her emotion bursts out at the keyboard. “Feral” was a word that came up in the enthusiastic conversation afterwards, as we tried to understand what we’d experienced, as though we’d heard someone whose energies have not yet been tamed by the normal expectations of concert routine, as though her wild passions had just been brought back fresh from the wild. It’s a silly metaphor in some ways because Boizán plays with amazing precision. Of course: her live performance is energized by an audience, the undeniable chemistry we feel in the presence of true charisma. I feel very fortunate to have experienced this concert from an artist new to me and apparently new to the Toronto scene, someone who sends me reeling back to old words I have over-used, such as “magic” and “overwhelming”. The cynic in me wants to say that this comes from youth, that with maturity we’ll get mere music rather than shamanic energies opening doors. But another part of me suspects that this is the nature of her art, that the doors are open for her and she can take us through.