Back to Live Performances Reviews
Table of Contents

Hamilton Spectator
Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 7, 1983

Pianist provides fine `exploration'
by Ken Gee, Special to The Spectator

SIMPLY INCREDIBLE! Last night's Explorations concert at McMaster's Convocation Hall was even more fun than a Horowitz recital.

Providing this unique and exciting musical experience was young pianist Michael Habermann playing with subtlety, sometimes frightening ferocity and everything in between. Aside from Ferruccio Busoni's Fantasia Contrappuntistica, a lengthy and fiendishly difficult late-Romantic extension of Bach's Art of Fugue, the program was virtually unknown piano repertory.

The second half was made up of works by English-born Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (now 90 years old, creator of seemingly impossible-to-play music). Sorabji banned public performance of his works for about 40 years, recently allowing several pianists (including Habermann) to try their luck.

Of the three Sorabji works performed, the Nocturne: Jâmî (1928) proved the most difficult to get a mental grip on. Everything posed tremendous technical problems for Habermann and, to his great credit, he had the mental and physical equipment to handle them. But at least the Prelude, Interlude & Fugue (1924) was framed in recognizable form (the incessant rollercoaster of notes in the Prelude reminiscent of the Finale in Chopin's 2nd Sonata).

Even the Waltz-Fantasy (1925) in tribute to Johann Strauss, while streaked with similar chromaticism and harmonic vagueness, and seeming to be Strauss only through a swirling cloud of coloristic piano effects and Ives-like juxtapositions, could be recognized.

At least four levels of texture gradually became apparent: Bass, mid-range melody and chords, and rapid, high-range arpeggio passages to create a sonic haze over everything else. That Habermann could make these levels clear was a remarkable feat.

Let's hope Habermann returns with more.

Copyright ©1983 by Ken Gee, all rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission