Matei Varga: Early Departures
‘Early Departures’ refers to sadness, pain and loss, topics that Matei Varga purports to address in his solo debut recital. He begins with a series of Preludes composed by Tudor Dumitrescu, who died at 19 in the 1977 Bucharest earthquake. By all accounts a gifted pianist, Dumitrescu had yet to find his way as a composer. The music is full of undigested late Scriabin, Ravel’s ‘Scarbo’ and pent-up Rachmaninov-isms. By contrast, the longest Prelude’s sparse and brooding textures and cleverly appropriated Bergian stylings reveal a more original compositional voice, albeit in embryo.
Dinu Lipatti, of course, was already an iconic pianist before his early death at 33 in 1950, yet his catalogue of skilfully crafted neoclassical compositions deserves more attention that it usually gets. The short Sonata romantica features whirlpools of left hand runs and ardently lyrical outbursts that take their cue from Lipatti’s mentor, George Enescu, without overt imitation. While the Prelude from Lipatti’s Little Suite is a bit of bitonal fluff, the A minor (Moravian) and F sharp minor Nocturnes suggest a darkly updated Fauré, and substantially so.
Varga taps into the expressive sound world of Janáček’s In the Mists, employing ample rubato and generally measured tempos. Indeed, he transforms the Andantino into a moody tone poem, clocking out at four and a half minutes; Rudolf Firkušný’s simpler, more direct interpretation requires two minutes less. The pianist closes with the Adagio from Bach’s D minor Concerto after Marcello. The gentle, inward reading realises Varga’s soothing, calming intention, although I prefer both the stronger harmonic tension and left-hand presence in Alexandre Tharaud’s recording (Harmonia Mundi, 9/05) and Vikingur Ólafsson’s meticulously pinpointed dynamic gradations (DG). In all, a beautifully executed and engineered achievement that does this talented young pianist proud.