PianoTexas had one of its most entertaining programs Friday night as the academy/festival neared the end of this summer’s edition.
The guest artist in Pepsico Recital Hall was Arie Vardi, an Israeli who teaches piano in Tel Aviv and in Hanover, Germany. With one exception, his program consisted entirely of mazurkas.
To the unknowing, that might seem a recipe for boredom. But Vardi demonstrated that there’s plenty of variety in the form, especially among those examples composed by Chopin.
Wikipedia defines mazurka as “a Polish folk dance in triple meter, usually at a lively tempo, and with the accent on the second or third beat.” Heavy emphasis should be placed on that “Polish” part of the definition. So closely is the dance associated with the country that the Polish national anthem is a mazurka — specifically, Dabrowski’s Mazurka, which Vardi played Friday night.
Chopin, who was a Pole, of course, composed a lot of mazurkas — 50 or 60, maybe — no one is sure. He became the composer most identified with the form.
The first half of Vardi’s program was a hybrid recital/lecture in which he ruminated on and played examples of the form and Chopin’s treatment of it. He waxed philosophical at times and brought some wry wit into play. It seemed pretty clear that he must be an entertaining teacher.
Playing a mazurka by one of Chopin’s pupils, Thomas Tellefsen, Vardi commented that “the parts that were beautiful were not original, and the parts that were original were not beautiful.
“After Chopin it became almost impossible to write a mazurka,” he said.
At one point, a mazurka was played over the hall’s audio system. Pausing slightly to give the audience a chance to guess who the composer was, Vardi announced that the piece was composed by a computer. His point: You can do everything right, as the computer did, and still come up with an uninspired creation.
The second half of the program was an uninterrupted recital of Chopin mazurkas. There was plenty of variety, not only in melody but in tempo and atmosphere. There was nothing tedious about it.
The one non mazurka of the evening was Astor Piazzolla’s Milonga del Angel. It was a beautiful work beautifully played by Vardi.
Final PianoTexas recital
Dang Thai Son
7:30 p.m. Saturday
PepsiCo Recital Hall, TCU
$25-$30. 817-257-7456, www.pianotexas.org.