BEING adventurous, experimental and challenging, which is pretty much the philosophy espoused by Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen, pictured.
along with his compatriot and chum, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, is all very well; but there does come a point where the listener wants to shout at him: "just play the bloody music as the composer wrote it; stop messing about and indulging yourself:
I don't want to hear your voice; only that of the composer." And that was my own gut reaction to Mustonen's Bartok Three with the SSO last Thursday, reviewed today on this page.
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It was with some relief, then, that Mustonen's solo recital in the Royal Conservatoire on Friday (very generous of him, I should say, with a bundle of concertos by Bartok and Hindemith to play as well during his stay in the city) was a more "normal" affair, featuring Bach's Fifth Suite and Rachmaninov's Thirteen Preludes, opus 32.
I say "normal", but that refers only to the repertoire. There is nothing normal in Mustonen's playing. He has, as evinced throughout his extraordinary performance of the Bach, which ranged from extreme delicacy to blatant thunder, with a mighty final fugue where the Finn let the music roar, a truly astonishing command of keyboard technique: have you ever heard before anyone pluck and ping notes from a keyboard as the Finn did? His fingers seemed each to have an independent life, while collaborating in probing the soul of the Rachmaninov Preludes. That performance amounted to a passionate, reflective, intense, restless and nostalgic glory. I loved it at least as much as I loathed Mustonen's Bartok Three.