Mateusz Borowiak Second Recital in Review
Mateusz Borowiak, piano
Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Center, New York, NY
November 8, 2017
As serendipity would have it, I saw a poster in a small restaurant prior to attending Mateusz Borowiak’s second recital (of three) comprising his US debut. The slogan said: “The only way to do great work is to love.” This seemed particularly apropos regarding the sonatas of Louis Pelosi, two more of which (Nos. 5 and 1) were played on November 8, 2017 by Mr. Borowiak.
Clearly, Pelosi works with a great deal of love: love of imitative counterpoint, love of tonal harmony with many layers of complexity, love of the piano and its possibilities, and love of expressing large feelings and ideas. My fear, if that is the right word, is that this literature will not appeal to other pianists en masse, or the wider audiences it merits (and perhaps that’s okay) for it seems to me now that I have heard four of the six that his music lacks one thing the average concertgoer wants: memorable melodies.
Pelosi works with “themes and motives” more than “tunes,” and this certainly is an honorable practice going all the way back through music history, but it does make his music harder to listen to for the novice, even for those with some experience. The Sonata No. 5 made a strong impression in Mr. Borowiak’s expert hands—he has a way of clarifying these extremely dense textures, leading the ear to where the main matter is. Sonata No. 1 alternated between playful imitative materials and darker forces, and again, one could not imagine a better performance.
After intermission, Mr. Borowiak continued his marathon presentation of three complete etude cycles with all twelve of Debussy’s etudes. These are great late works by the master, pointing the way to modern trends while remaining totally “Debussy” in style as well. Debussy probably had the deepest, most intimate knowledge of the potential for piano sonority of any composer since Chopin. Let me make absolutely clear that at no time was the technical prowess of Mr. Borowiak in doubt, however, those who know my background and writings know how fervent I am about French music and its style. I feel that Mr. Borowiak could benefit from a bit more in the way of tints and tones of the same color, delicacy, and an almost indefinable French “wit” so essential to this music. The “cinq doigts” needed more leggiero and its last note was cut way too short, the “Tièrces” and “Quartes” were very good, the “Sixtes” however needed more legato gliding and delicacy, as they were a bit too jumpy. The “Octaves” and the “huit doigts” were very good. In the second livre I felt he grasped the nature of each piece much better—these are frankly much less didactic and more imagistic in tone. Everything was just put perfectly in place by Mr. Borowiak, and his tempo for the concluding “accords” was the fastest I’ve ever heard, and accurate.
I’ll admit I do quibble about things, but the secret to French music is truly in the details. He has such a secure foundation already as a pianist, I hope Mr. Borowiak will continue to let these major accomplishments of his repertoire “sink in” to even deeper levels of refinement. Then he will truly be sans pareil.