Kristian Lindberg made a triumphant return to the professional concert scene after his traumatic encounter with a Portuguese Man of War less than a year ago.
Last November, in India, he was stung by a huge jellyfish [Portuguese Man of War]. One hospital recommended amputation of his right arm! Another hospital carried out major surgery, saving the arm. In February 2017 he had more surgery. The question was whether his career had been destroyed and would he ever play the piano again. Convalescence, Kristian said, was then aided by Mozart’s ‘Variations on a Minuet by Duport’ which had brought life back to his fingers. From gentle and simple beginnings, this work developed for us into a full-bodied demonstration of mastery of the keyboard with subtlety of phrasing and precision. Mozart wrote the variations to impress the King of Prussia; Kristian’s rendering certainly impressed us.
The rest of the programme - Grieg, Rachmaninov and Chopin - saw us firmly in the Romantic style.
Kristian, a compatriot of Grieg, gave us a very well chosen selection of five of Grieg’s ‘Lyric Pieces’. ‘Butterfly’ was taken at speed, but retained delicacy and fragility with smooth runs, swirls and darting angles. ‘Solitary Traveller’ brought an arresting change of mood to forlornness and melancholy which was quickly shaken off by the bright and lively ‘Brooklet’. Quite how Kristian then got the same piano to bathe us in the warm lullaby of ‘At the Cradle’ was little short of a miracle. The last, more varied piece, ‘Homeward’ took us to a very positive conclusion.
The selection of Rachmaninov Preludes had all the drama one could expect from decibels to delicacy! Kristian also had the restraint to give us superb languid wistful sections and moving crescendos. A brief bright and cheerful piece was followed by a meditative one whose narrative was compulsively maintained. This Rachmaninov section ended with Prelude No. 5 in G minor: so well known, and dazzlingly performed.
After the interval, the programme consisted of Chopin’s 24 Preludes: no diversity of composer, but an amazing diversity of styles and moods. These Preludes were published as a single work and were greatly influenced by Bach’s ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’ publication. Indeed Chopin’s 24 Preludes are similarly in each major and minor key. That of course was Chopin’s contribution as composer; what the performer brings to that music, some of which is extremely well known, is another question. One fears one is very likely to be disappointed. No such happening here. There was an increasing sense of awe and wonder as each Prelude took on its own identity, and one’s personal treasures had to accommodate to this being the definitive perfomance experience. The capacity audience was enthralled and gave Kristian a standing ovation.
Kristian Lindberg currently lives in Totnes, though his international performances span the major prestigious venues in the USA, Europe and Japan. This NADSA concert was the first in a series of concerts sponsored by Austin's Department Store. I hope NADSA concerts will be able to bring Kristian back to Newton Abbot in the not too distant future.