Pianist Javier Perianes, a poet plays Chopin at the New World Symphony

Arts / Article

By Sebastian Spreng, Visual Artist and Classical Music Writer

Spain is a land of poets more famous than its great musicians. Though at first sight Javier Perianes does not look the type, he is indeed a poet, and a good one. He is a pianist, and a good one. Javier Perianes

Three seasons ago, Perianes made his Miami debut opening the New World Symphony’s season along with Michael Tilson Thomas. The young Andalusian made an impression that called for a speedy return. That eagerly awaited return is scheduled to take place Nov. 23 and 24, when he performs Chopin’s First Piano Concerto under the baton of Osmo Vänskä, who will also conduct Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2. Since his last visit, Perianes’ career has been nothing less than an unstoppable ascent. There were debuts in St. Petersburg, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, London’s Wigmore Hall, Paris and other major venues. He received Spain’s 2012 National Music Award and – to his most intimate and comforting satisfaction – had the conservatory in Huelva where he studied named after him. He is prophet with honor in his own country.

But there’s more. A sensational, intelligent, exquisite and addictive CD has joined his discography, which already boasts paradigmatic Mompou and  Blasco de Nebra collections, an album of Manuel de Falla classics and fascinating Beethoven and Schubert volumes. In this latest recording, he orchestrates, so to speak, a meeting – as imaginary as it is coherent – between Chopin and Debussy, uniting them in an almost tangible dimension. The disc is not a collection of precious miniatures, as might be expected, but of masterpieces that, though far apart in time and space, seem to go hand in hand, fellow travelers set on a path of ravishing beauty.

He pairs Chopin’s Barcarolle, Opus 60, with Debussy’s L’isle joyeuse, just one example of many felicitous matches (“In both, the trill is the expressive element,” notes Perianes). Like a miner who won’t stop until he finds the hidden gold vein, Perianes has devoted himself to seeking out and revealing such two-way streets – conscious or unconscious – the musical topography and the subtle chromaticisms between both composers. He explores how they influenced one another, what they intuited, what each knew about the other. Chopin’s Ballade No. 4, Opus 52, finds its match in the Debussy prelude Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir, and those sounds and perfumes appropriately title a recital that is pure essence of “essentialists” and, fortunately, not meant only for gourmets. It also comes with a welcome DVD in which the author explains his pairings and his reasons for them.

Please note that this is not a sugary – much less sentimental – recital, but a deeply rooted one in which intimism and reflection prevail. It’s a mano a mano among three friends who reunite, with the youngest playing the role of wise mediator, translator and confidant. Javier definitely succeeds in getting Frédéric and Claude to sit down, chat, socialize and perhaps drink a glass of absinthe.

With unbeatable technical and expressive skills, it’s not difficult for Perianes to differentiate between the palettes. Chopin never sounds like Debussy or vice versa. The two remain in their particular universes, but still, curiously, brothers. It’s a search for the essence of each in which the Huelva native explores himself with new maturity, finding what he was looking for. He grasps the immanent connections between two artists who were able to compose for piano because both were great pianists. This is music of cries and whispers, past and present, in which each piece’s fullness and luster, in every sense, is immaculately rendered in the’ unmistakable silver light of Paris, touched with the aroma of nostalgia for black and gray of Warsaw and the green and blue of Argenteuil, beyond an immensity of orange light with the flavor of Seurat or a Matisse arabesque, music in which lies a Sorolla restrained like a bull before it enters the ring.

In a dizzying world, full of pianists, each more technically spectacular than the next, Perianes – a fortunately atypical performer – emerges as a necessary contrast. He can be spectacular when it’s called for, but more than anything he is an oasis, a tranquil patio, a balm. His are the attributes of a poet – and colorist – who knows precisely what he is doing in his own, unique space. A Spaniard through and through, he is not only a poet but also a painter. Once again, Javier Perianes achieves the small miracle of playing for each person and having each listen. He establishes a dialogue between artist and listener in which the speaker is the composer, be there one or two.

* CHOPIN-DEBUSSY …les sons et les parfums…- HARMONIA MUNDI-HMC 902164

* New World Symphony, Nov. 23 and 24:

(The concert on Saturday, Nov. 23, will be a Wallcast Event.)