The Michigan Daily
Thursday, July 30, 1981
Czech piano master
appears at Rackham
By GERARD PAPE
Daily Arts Writer
Tuesday night the audience at Rackham was privileged to hear a master
Czech pianist. Ivan Moravec, making his Ann Arbor debut, displayed a sure
mastery of his instrument, and much personal poise.
Three composers were represented on his program: Beethoven, Debussy,
and Chopin. Throughout his program, Moravec displayed a consistent
stylistic approach, a style that worked best with Chopin and Beethoven but
not as well with Debussy.
MORAVEC opened his program with Beethoven's 32 Variations in C
minor. This piece is not played often, which makes it even more rewarding
to hear. This accomplished performer gave each variation its own charac-
ter. He shifted between louder, faster, more dramatic moods and subdued,
introspective variations easily, displaying technique which was effortless
and assured even on extremely difficult passages.
Moravec fared less well on his interpretationsof Debussy. His crisp,
precise understated style missed the emotional nuances of Debussy's com-
posing. With more dynamic shading and contrast, Moravec might have
brought out the emotional character of Debussy's 'Children's Corner' Suite.
The pieces were technically well-executed, with clear articulation and sen-
sitive phrasing, though the playful child-like character of the pieces was
Ch as Jankel.
'Chas Jankel' (A&M)-I hate to say
it, but I guess we know now where the
real musical talent behind Ian Dury
and the Blockheads lies. It lies in Chas
Jankel. All of the musical balance,
ingenuity, and vigor that was missing
from The Blockheads' latest, Laughter,
can be found quite intact' on Chas
No doubt, though, that many
Blockheads fans would write this album
off as a sellout. Stripped of Dury's rude
vocals, there's nothing to make this
dance music sound in any way new
wave-y. Of course, to spurn this album,
one would have to overlook that what
Chas (then spelling it "Chaz") Jankel
brought to The Blockheads as their
musical director was his exceptionally
clever sense of dance music.
AND HE HASN'T lost that wonderful
sense in the least. Two of the three dan-
ce tunes included here are among the
best you'll hear anywhere. (The third is
okay, but not up to the standards set by
the other two.)
"Am I Honest with Myself Really?"
is, I think, the only fifteen-minute dance
cut I have ever heard that didn't seem
to drag or rely on gimmicks or in
some other way overextend itself by the
finish. Every moment is fresh and alive
as the choruses trade off with ever-
adventurous themes and solos. My per-
sonal favorite is an insane little a cap-
pella section in which Jankel strains
laughably (and lovably) to imitate The
Persuasions, although I've got to admit
that I don't always like it as well as the
sudden reappearance near the end of
the funky industrial synthesizers that
originally introduced the time.
BUT THE MOST pleasant surprises of
Chas Jankel are the pensive piano
compositions that act to both separate
and connect the longer dance numbers.
It would seem, in theory, that one
couldn't put these disparate styles
together back to back without stripping
gears. But although they are almost
contrary in tone to the dance songs,
these introspectve interludes feel like
extensions of the dance tunes; they
bring a rare feeling of balance and con-
tinuity to this record.
Of course, you can well imagine that
if The Blockheads fans would turn up
their noses at the dance music on this
album, they would be none too pleased
with these nearly classical passages.
FOR WHATEVER reason, this
album already seems to be sinking
without a ripple. Probably the case is
that the record company is at a loss as
to how to promote it. Its only given
market is Blockheads fans, who
probably won't go for it. To the dance
market, Jankel is an unknown.. if
not an outsider. ("Wasn't he in a punk
band?") Hopefully, that will change
now that Quincy Jones' glossy version
of -"Ai No Corrida'' off this album has
hit it big in the dance charts and clubs.
I can just see it now-Jankel's next
record will probably bear stickers all
over it proclaiming "The new album
from the composer of 'Ai No Corrida.'"
And it'll probably sell in deservedly
large quantities, too. As for now, this
album's probably a goner ... . unless
somebody out there gets hopping to
promote this eclectic wonder.
Ivan Moravec surveys the landscape in his native Prague.
Similar comments can be made about Moravec's performance of
Debussy's three Estampes. The problem with Moravec's approach is less
acute here. Given the more outwardly turned mood of these pieces,
Moravec's subtle approach served only to mute-not seriously hamper-the
quality of these pieces. This is not necessarily bad at all, since many pianists
take liberties with Debussy by overly embellishing and exaggerating the
emotional character of his pieces. It was refreshing to hear a pianist who did
not err in that direction, and whoseplaying was clearly not dry or academic.
MORAVEC'S interpretations of various Chopin Mazurkas and Ballades
were the most successful of the program. Chopin is often the victim of overly
eager pianists who try to "out-emotionalize" one another. Moravec played
with appropriately intense attack and well thought-out, musically sen-
sitive phrasing and rubato without being overly emotional. It was amusing to
watch him time the mopping of his brow to coincide with the resting points in
The evening concluded with lovely encores of Chopin's Nocturne in G
minor and Mazurka in A minor.
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