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Recital
HEROIC LIM PERFORMANCE AT STEINWAY SOCIETY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Chamber
SURPRISING IVES TRIO AND SONGS AT VMMF'S HANNA CENTER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 24, 2022
Chamber
SEMINAL SCHUBERT CYCLE PERFORMANCE FROM STEGALL-ZIVIAN AT VMMF
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 23, 2022
Opera
MARIN'S STRIPPED-DOWN OPERA CHARMS
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
MOZART AND BRAHMS AN AUSPICIOUS COUPLE AT VMMF FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 17, 2022
Chamber
CLARINIST HOEPRICH'S VIRTUOSITY IN VMMF OPENING CONCERT
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 16, 2022
Recital
AGGRESSIVE PIANISM IN MYER'S MENDO FESTIVAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 14, 2022
Opera
SONOROUS WAGNER GALA AND CAPACITY CROWD AT VALLEJO'S EMPRESS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, July 9, 2022
Choral and Vocal
TRAVELING CHORISTERS SO CO DEBUT IN TWO BIG CANTATAS
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 25, 2022
Opera
VERDI'S THEATRICAL LA TRAVIATA TRIUMPHS AT CINNABAR
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, June 19, 2022
RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Juho Pohjonen

THE BALLADE OF JUHO POHJONEN

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 14, 2014

Planning a piano program around a single theme or name can be tricky because cutesy connections can easily displace artistic merit. Fortunately, Juho Pohjonen's Sept. 14 recital in the inaugural "Sundays at Schroeder" concert was a textbook example of a successful theme--ballades--supported by wonderful music.

Grieg's seldom-played G Minor ballade had perhaps the most convincing performance of the afternoon. Built on 14 variations on a Norwegian folk song, the work is the composer's best extended-form piano piece. Mr. Pohjonen played it in a unhurried way with careful control of dynamics and just a hint of sadness. Pedaling was precise, and even the three most extroverted variations were clearly phrased and articulated.

Brahms' four early Op. 10 ballades completed the first half. Here again the Finnish pianist played with stable chordal weighting and fastidious thematic voicing. The gentle D Major Andante featured good staccato playing in the middle section. The Intermezzo moved from darkness to a cantabile of radiant light in the concluding Romanza. The slow playing had sentiment without a hint of sentimentality. Everything in the four components of the ballade's ersatz sonata structure was always in place.

In contrast to the efforts of Brahms and Grieg, each of the four Chopin ballades tells a story. Here Mr. Pohjonen stumbled. He is an exemplar of his musical generation in that rubatos are tight, inner voices are absent, repeats are played the same way each time, and the vocal nature of Chopin's exquisite melodies is slighted. The pianist's technique, however, is well suited to the unfolding agitation of the ballades. The F Major and the A-Flat Major received the most convincing playing benefiting from small pedal effects, fast right-hand scales and engaging rhythms.

Less compelling were the bookend ballades, arguably among the pinnacles of Chopin's genius. In both the G Minor and F Minor, pianistic frenzy often displaced thematic ardor and grandeur. The intricate and tumultuous coda of the F Minor became jumbled in the artist's rush to secure a potent finish.

Responding to a standing ovation from the audience of 160, Mr. Pohjonen played a limpid Grieg lyric piece, Op. 43, No. 6, "To the Spring." His captivating performance ended with two beguiling arpeggiated chords and a crossover left-hand pianissimo F.