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March 29, 2011

Pedja Muzijevic

Anybody who has ever attended the Movado Hour at the Baryshnikov Arts Center or just about any music performance in the BAC's Jerome Robbins Theater knows who Pedja Muzijevic is.  A Bosnian-born, Juilliard-educated concert pianist, he is officially called the "Artistic Administrator" of the BAC (a role assigned to him by the far-seeing and generous spirit of the place, Mikhail Baryshnikov).  Unofficially, he is the man behind many of the most exciting and unusual events that take place there.  Roundly admired as an artist yet resolutely unpretentious, beloved by many of the music world's best performers, he is able to draw on friendships and professional connections to create performance magic over and over again.

Pedja has what I would call a literary sensibility (but a painter would probably call it a sense of form, and a dancer would call it a choreographic sensibility) -- that is, he is able to perceive connections between different parts of a whole, which allows him to imagine and then create a narrative arc in a performance.  The things he puts on at the BAC are not just concerts:  they have a point and a shapeliness that make you feel an intelligence behind them.  Sometimes it is the intelligence of the artists themselves (as it was in last fall's galvanizing concert by the St. Lawrence Quartet); sometimes it is Pedja's; most often it is both.

Last night's double concert at the Jerome Robbins Theatre was a Pedja event, for sure.  It consisted of two one-hour concerts (separated by an hour in which you could grab a meal at a nearby bar), each ending with Czerny's 1830 "Quatour Concertant," a weird, amusing, rather wonderful piece for four pianos.  Prior to this ending, each concert featured two of the four pianists in solo works.  In the first hour, Pedja himself played Liszt plus two twentieth-century composers (Feldman and Knussen); then a talented young woman named Natasha Paremski played a new piece by Gabriel Kahane.  In the second hour, the brilliant Inon Barnatan played Scarlatti plus a recent piece by Currier that echoed Scarlatti, and the always-terrific Anne-Marie McDermott undertook Wuorinen's massive and challenging Fourth Piano Sonata.  In other words, the opening pieces were all serious. 

The Czerny was something else.  Written for four of Czerny's female students, it was lively, charming, and -- in the hands of these four masters -- marvelously invigorating.  You could see how fun it was for pianists to be playing in a quartet with other pianists, for a change, as they nodded at each other over their pianos and smiled in response to each other's cadenzas and flourishes.  And you could also see how this work and the much more recent ones that had preceded it were connected in a strange way, despite the obvious differences of tone.  It was a lesson about listening and observing, timing and time, precedence and succession, but it didn't feel like a lesson at all:  it felt like a romp.  In each concert, before they played the final piece, Pedja introduced each of the players by the part he or she was to play, which was the name of the original performer -- Countess This, Countess That -- until he reached himself:  "And I am the only non-noble lady playing this evening:  your hostess, Mrs. Albrecht."  What a very good hostess he is, indeed!
March 29, 2011 7:45 AM | | Comments (0)

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