It's those Oshman acoustics again, I guess. I came to hear Olga Kern, a tall blonde woman with one black dress, and one red one (she changed during the interval), play Schumann's Carnaval, but I'm not sure I heard it. Her performance sounded so plain and blocky, without a touch of grace or beauty, that the work was mostly unrecognizable, and the Davidsbündler marched in hob-nailed boots.
On the other hand, maybe it wasn't entirely the acoustics, for I liked her Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies, because they're supposed to be shamelessly tasteless. This was the Liszt who led a flourishing afterlife as a house composer for Warner Brothers cartoons. Kern's Chopin sounded like an unsuccessful aspirant for the same position. She should have stuck to the original announcement's plan of playing Rachmaninoff instead of Chopin.
One remaining piece on the program I was unfamiliar with, so since the booklet had nothing to say about the repertoire I looked it up when I got home. It was an obscure bit of Beethoven, his Variations on a Theme by Salieri. This is an early work, from 1799, but it resembles a smaller-scale version of his much later Diabelli Variations in that he takes a dorky little tune by somebody else - this one is an aria from Salieri's Falstaff opera - and treats it to such serious and complex variations as to make the composer of the original embarrassed to have written it.
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