Monday Evening Concerts presented a wonderful performance by Russian-born pianist Alexei Lubimov at Zipper Hall Throughout the evening he interpreted Debussy, Cage, Rabinovitch-Barakovsky, and Satie. The concert began with the Prelude to Act I of Satie's Les Files des étoiles. This bit of "prototypical minimalism" comes across at first like a compendium of riffs and loosely linked bagatelles. Many harmonies and parallell gestures sounded prophetic of Messiaen, in particular Éclairs sur L'au Delà. Lubimov treated Satie's humorous/mystical dichotomy with a reverent delicacy.
That was followed by Alexandre Rabinovitch-Barakovsky's Récit de Voyage, a surprisingly rewarding piece dangling between Prokofiev, Steve Mackey, and Clementi. For this piece Lubimov was joined by percussionist Jonathan Hepfer, cellist Karen Ouzounian, and violinist Movses Pogossian. Lubimov artfully blended into the dynamics of the ensemble, with the vibrant Pogossian stepping into the forefront.
After intermission, a second piano was used for Cage's prepared piano pieces. It was a big weekend for the prepared piano, as the prior Saturday saw a performance of Sonatas and Interludes by Richard Valitutto at the Hammer Museum. The difference between intimate chamber setting and concert hall grandeur was stark - hearing every delicate note decay and pedal lift versus the reverberant depth of the stage, which easily buries such details.
Lubimov played Cage's Prelude for Meditation, Music for Marcel Duchamp, and The Perilous Night. These pieces were treated to the same austerity as the Satie, and the French composer's influence on Cage was highlighted by the pairing of the two. An unfortunate interjection by SIRI colored one piece, but the reserved personality of the musicianship persevered. Lubimov re-prepared the piano onstage for The Perilous Night as the audience watched and waited. With such a stellar performance thus far, no one seemed to mind sitting quietly as the pianist dug around inside the piano, inserting erasers, bolts, etc. into Zipper Hall's lesser piano.
Lubimov came back around to Debussy in the end, with a contemplative performance of six of his preludes. Though standing ovations are not entirely unheard of at Monday Evening Concerts, encores are less common. Lubimov treated the audience to two encores from Debussy's first book of preludes, concluding with The Engulfed Cathedral. It was in these encores that he seemed to finally let loose, exploring dynamic ranges uncalled for in the prior pieces. That abandon only highlighted the skill in the light touch demonstrated throughout the evening.
It was a fantastic performance by a world class performer, presented by the longest-running new music series in the country. Isn't this why we live in LA? On December 3, MEC will present New Voices, featuring music by Rob Wannamaker, Cassandra Miller, Aaron Helgeson, and Rick Burkhardt.