Saturday, June 04, 2016

REVIEW: Daria van den Bercken: Handel and Scarlatti at the Keyboard

Two weeks ago I visited Kings Place for the first time. Up until then, I’d been avoiding this venue like the keyboard warrior that I am, as it’s very close in geographical proximity to where The Guardian headquarters are, and, naturally, I’ve had some beef with more than one Guardian football writer. So for my own safety, I’d decided it best to stay out of there way. Hahaha. 

Anyway, I grew a pair and manned up, because I wanted to watch a piano concert. I’ve been to my fair share of orchestral concerts, both amateur and professional, but never actually watched a solo pianist of any kind live, so what better way to start than at Kings Place @ 90 York Way, a very reasonably priced venue in King's Cross to let up-and-coming musicians exhibit their many and varied talents. 

The musician in question was Daria van den Bercken, and she certainly knew her way around a piano. Her fingers dextrously hit all the right keys, she was comfortable with the music, and her passion for Baroque music was clear; she wasn’t just playing the notes (and what difficult notes they were!), but making the pieces come alive. As a violinist and a guitarist myself, I always enjoy listening to sad pieces more than happy ones, and her performance of Sonata in C-sharp minor, K 247 was on point; the use of dynamics would surely have made Scarlatti proud. 

In fact – and I feel churlish for saying this – but it was probably van den Bercken’s overzealous passion for Handel, Scarlatti, and their life stories, that let the recital down a little. Before playing the piano, she gave us a brief history of the musical beef between Handel and Scarlatti, which was fair enough. But then, after playing Handel’s Suite in E, HWV 430, she picked up the microphone again, to tell some other musical anecdotes which might have been interesting to her, but weren’t too fascinating to me, and, judging from the impatient looks on the audience faces, weren’t too much to their liking either. I mean, to lay a setting for the pieces you’ve chosen to play is prudent. But to throw around non-sequiturs that are more about your development as a pianist rather than the two men who’s pieces are headlining, is meandering, bordering on narcissistic. 

That said, I really did enjoy listening to her piano-playing. The piano is an instrument I’ve always struggled with, and I have the utmost respect for people who can play it, and play it well. Daria’s talent, confidence, and musical panache were clear. I would be interested in seeing how she fares with romantic and modern pieces too. I just don’t want the 45 minutes of one-woman-show that gets tacked on with it. 

Grade: B

Some other photos I took from Kings Place...

No comments: