Stephen Kovacevich

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,JS Bach,Schumann
LABELS: Ideale Audience
WORKS: JS Bach: Partita No. 4 in D, BWV828; Schumann: Kinderszenen; Beethoven: 33 Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli; Bagatelle in G, Op. 126 No. 5
PERFORMER: Stephen Kovacevich (piano)


Filmed in his seventieth year, this recital is proof that pianist Stephen Kovacevich is still very much in his prime. The summer heat of Verbier – in whose church the concert took place – leads him to mop his brow whenever he has a hand free, but the atmosphere is warmly supportive.

And the unfussy camera-work is just what we need to savour the mechanics of his art: most of the shots are of his hands in close-up, showing the surgical precision of his finger-work. This film draws us intimately in. 

The Bach Partita is a delight. If the ‘Ouverture’ is delivered with a light, dry touch, the ‘Allemande’ proceeds in a dreamy calm which allows the poetry of the music to emerge; the ‘Sarabande’ intensifies this quality, its delicate hesitations making a lovely foil to the jauntiness of the ‘Aria’ and the joyful liberation of the ‘Gigue’.

However one senses that with the Schumann Kinderszenen Kovacevich is saving up his resources for the great Beethoven work to come: these miniatures are short on drama and wonder, and at times have an almost perfunctory quality.


But with the Diabelli Variations he’s absolutely in his element. Each shake of the kaleidoscope takes us into a different Beethovenian world, as fury, pathos, grandeur, and grotesquerie follow each other in the spotlight. The closing fugue crackles with muscular energy, the finale transports us into the empyrean. Michael Church