Thursday night, I drove Zsolt to his concert in Ashtabula. Therein lies a tale. Time was becoming problematic for me, as Danny was scheduled to work and Mason would be left alone for over five hours, a record for him. Wednesday night, Danny was called in to substitute for another worker, and Danny agreed with the proviso that he could get Thursday off. With Mason no longer an issue, Zsolt and I had some more leeway in our schedule.
The weather was not great, but we were able to get to the KSU campus with plenty of time to spare. We were going to need every moment we could get.
One aspect about Zsolt I never fully appreciated until Thursday is his rock-solid professionalism. Zsolt is a real trooper. The piano, a Steinway M, is designed for a living room and was plainly too small for the auditorium. It was also dreadfully out of tune, badly voiced, and the regulation was shot. A more temperamental artist would have noisily stomped off the stage and cancelled. Not Zsolt. He patiently ran through some of his pieces to gauge the hall’s acoustics and get a feel for the piano.
At 6:30, there was a Q & A with a representative of KSU’s music program. Zsolt’s answers to the questions were well considered, and betrayed no hint of nervousness about speaking or performing before a crowd. The KSU guy continually mispronounced Zsolt’s name, but Zsolt did not offer a hint of irritation. Nor did Zsolt make an attempt to correct him.
The Q & A concluded at 7:00, which gave Zsolt another ½ hour to prepare on the small practice piano backstage. More people filed in, eventually filling the hall about half way. A large number of attendees were of student age. It’s heartening when a classical concert is not solely populated by the blue hair crowd.
Some of the repertoire was new to Zsolt, but a few pieces I’ve been hearing him in since 2004, including Schubert’s Klavierstucke D. 946, No. 2, and Liszt’s Dante Sonata. Even with the limitations of the instrument, I was struck by how Zsolt’s interpretations have ripened over the last five years. He brought new elements of these well worn pieces to light. I recently heard Maurizio Pollini playing the Schubert, and his performance sounded flat and lifeless compared to Zsolt. After hearing Zsolt play the Dante Sonata several times, I can confidently write that Zsolt “owns” the piece. All too many pianists turn the Liszt’s work into a cheap display of pianistic effects, and just as many wallow in sluggish tempos in a false attempt at profundity. Zsolt has all the technique needed for the piece, and definitely turns up the heat, but never goes in for cheap exhibitionism. I crave to hear him in Liszt’s B Minor Sonata.
The audience was unusually attentive, even during Zsolt’s encore, Arvo Part’s Fur Alina. Afterward, one young person asked me for the name of the piece so he could get a recording.
Zsolt treated me to Waffle House on the way home. It’s a relief to me that Zsolt takes as much pleasure in comfort food as I do.
On Sunday, I treated Danny to Abuelo's in appreciation for his help Thursday.
For those in the area, Zsolt will be giving a recital on Thursday, February 26 at 7pm. at the