Sparks but no flame: Pianist Dejan Lazic at Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater
By Anne Midgette
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010; 5:32 PM
Grandiloquence is an occupational hazard for a solo musician. There you are, alone onstage, playing works that are acknowledged to be monumentally great with breathtaking ability. It can be hard to avoid assuming the trappings of greatness.
Exhibit A is Dejan Lazic, who made his Washington debut Saturday afternoon as part of the Washington Performing Arts Society's Hayes Piano Series at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. Lazic, 33, is a pianist, composer and sometime clarinetist. A few years ago, he made a strong mark as a performing partner of cellist Pieter Wispelwey. More recently, his claim to fame was turning Brahms's violin concerto into something dubbed "Piano Concerto No. 3," which he recorded with the Atlanta Symphony earlier this year. The feat ranks somewhere on the "because it's there" spectrum of human achievement: attention-getting, large scale and a little empty.
His recital of Chopin and Schubert on Saturday was unfortunately on the same spectrum. The selection of those two composers is usually a way to demonstrate a pianist's sensitivity as well as his virtuosity. This performance, though, kept one eye fixed on monumentality. Some of the pieces, such as Chopin's Scherzo No. 2, sounded less like light solo piano works than an attempt to rival the volume of a concerto with full orchestra. This scherzo became cartoon-like in its lurches from minutely small to very, very large.
It's not that Lazic isn't sensitive - or profoundly gifted. The very first notes of Chopin's Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante at the start of the program signalled that he can do anything he wants at the keyboard, detailing chords with a jeweler's precision, then laying little curls of notes atop a cushion of sound like diamonds nestled on velvet. Again and again, throughout the afternoon, he showed what a range of colors he could get out of the instrument, switching from hard-edged percussiveness to creamy legato, crackling chords to a single thread of sound. The sheer technical ability was, at first, a delight.
Soon, though, all of the finesse started to seem like an end in itself. Every nuance of the music was underlined visibly with a host of concert-pianist playacting gestures: head flung back at the end of a phrase; left hand conducting the right hand; or a whole ballet of fingers hovering over keys and picking out their targets before an opening note was even struck at the start of Chopin's Ballade No. 3. There were fine moments, but they stubbornly refused to add up to anything more than a self-conscious display of Fine Moments. The final movement of Chopin's Second Piano Sonata was in a way the most successful part of the program: sheer virtuosity, and perfectly unhinged.
Schubert's B-flat Sonata, D. 960, was a chance to shift into another gear and show a more reflective side, but it was a chance Lazic didn't quite take. The notes, again, were exquisitely placed, and there were things to like, but the human side fell short. All of the precision didn't help bring across the lyricism of the first movement's theme, or the threat of the bass growl that keeps warning off ease from the bottom of the keyboard. The second movement, instead of being a searching, tugging quest, was reduced to merely very pretty music.
The pianist was received with reasonably warm applause, but it didn't last long enough to draw an encore - which ought to get his attention. He's a pianist of prodigious gifts, and he's too good not to do better, to move beyond the music's challenges and into the realm of its soul.
I'm not a coder, but I did do CS in high school back in the pre-Internet late 80s. We first learned flow charts, then algorithms, then had to program functions on calculators, and finally got out hands on TSR-80s to write BASIC programs. The brilliance of this was that my education was not limited to languages, but rather to techniques and logic. And now I teach philosophy, and have a healthy fascination with computers.
As a professor, I ask my students to do the simplest thing - writing blogs with decent lay-out. They have all the tools they need, and I offer whatever help they request. Yet, this Facebook generation often gets confused with the simplest of tasks, including uploading pictures outside of Facebook. The Internet, obviously enough, has dumbed down everything. Students no longer try to apply techniques, but rather to respond to interfaces.
To bring this back on topic - schools need to teach the logic and the basic techniques - with those, one needs simply to learn a language, which is not that difficult.
If they go this way, they may lose money on me.
I have no cable TV subscription, and the only way I watch TV is on Hulu (etc.).
If they meter me, I'll simply revert to my earlier Web activities, which are largely text-based.
Restricted airspace above meatpacking plants and CAFOs?
I could see that coming.
Don't forget the health-care costs associated with long-term processed-food eating. They more than outstrip the savings you realize in food purchases.
Yes, depending how you source your food, obviously cooking can be more expensive. But it does not have to be - even fine cooking.
You can make a batch of home-made tomato sauce that will last a week, and that will cost you under $2. At Whole Foods, you can buy very good meat; for instance, $8 will get you enough chicken to last (me) four meals. With a few vegetables and noodles or rice, you have a stir fry.Some tortillas, you have a burrito. Of course, all these things require pantry items, but they can be purchased in bulk and amortized over many meals. You can bake up a week's worth of cupcakes with ingredients you control, and that'll set you back - actually, I don't know how much, since they too are based on bulk ingredients you can use in many meals.
We need to stop looking at fresh food as an expense, but rather as an investment, especially when we spend so much money on gadgets and subscriptions. Eating well - not extravagantly - is essential for health in the long run. Eating all the sodium and additives your proposed cheap diet offers strikes me as unwise.
"Though a program be but three lines long, someday it will have to be maintained." -- The Tao of Programming