I’m sure that when Golijov finally completes the music Upshaw and Ax commissioned, it will be exquisitely sad and transporting and we will love it, but the other night I was happy have the last-minute stand-in of Stephen Prutsman’s Piano Lessons give Upshaw (and Ax) an opportunity to show their lighter, comedic side. It’s not something that’s apparent in her High Modernist repertoire.
Upshaw also made a case for Chopin’s songs, which are probably neglected because of the (Polish) language barrier. Moja pieszczotka (My darling) was shattering. Is there an album in the works, I hope?
I’ve never been really struck by Emanuel Ax, but this time he presented four Chopin Mazurkas as if he were improvising them on the spot, with just the right mixture of discipline.
The real event of the evening was Upshaw performing a dozen songs by Schumann. Undistracted by a score, she dramatized each mood, each phrase—alternately ecstatic, heart-sick, neurotic, cheeky, grave.