Aimi Kobayashi: Chopin and Liszt Recital
The ‘Funeral March’ Sonata immediately makes it clear why Aimi Kobayashi should have made it through to the final stage of the 2015 Chopin Competition. Her articulation is powerful and super-clear, in the way more or less de rigueur for artists who get that far. Not only that, but her rubato and profiling of dynamics capture something of the inner agitation that prompted Schumann’s image of Chopin having yoked together his ‘four maddest children’. On the downside, her dragging tempo of the slow movement may help to explain why she was not placed among the six prize-winners in Warsaw (the competition has since published the individual votes of all the jurors, which make for fascinating reading). Although her control and concentration are never in question, there is a touch of wilful self-regard that she will need to expunge somehow.
Kobayashi’s finest qualities are on display in the three Petrarch Sonnets and the Liebestraum, all of which hold reverie and passion in judicious balance. And if she lays herself open to the accusation of playing more for effect than for substance, some might say this is exactly what Liszt invites her to do in the Dante Sonata. No lack of glamour and impact here, and no doubting that Kobayashi knows how to rivet the attention through fine-drawn line and hushed dynamics as much as through vivid gesture and brute force. It will be interesting to see how her musical personality matures through experience. She has certainly earned the right to be given that chance. The recorded sound fully registers her high-impact touch: to the point of an occasional glassy edge in the treble, some may think, but not so much as to constitute a serious distraction.