Wednesday 2 October 2013

Some remarkably fine playing from Viktor Bijelovic in a recital of works by Beethoven, Gluck, Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninov and Liszt

Serbian born Viktor Bijelovic is building a reputation both as a solo pianist and a chamber musician. His concerts engagements have taken him to France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malaysia and Poland, as well as venues in Britain.

Winner of several prestigious awards, he has performed at such venues as Sadlers Wells with the Pina Bausch Wuppertal Tanztheater , the Salle Gaveau Concert Hall in Paris, and the Kolarac Concert Hall in Belgrade as well as playing at Buckingham Palace on the occasion of HRH Prince Charles’ 50th birthday celebrations.

Bijelovic studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London with Professor Patsy Toh and Professor Colin Stone as well as having lessons with Professor Niokai Petrov, Professor Arbo Valdma, Professor Snezana Panovska and Professor Irina Plotnikova.

He was a guest performer at the 5th ASEAN International Chopin Competition in Malaysia in 2011 and appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2012.

I am particularly pleased to have been given the opportunity to hear a new recording from Bijelovic entitled Empassioned supported by Kickstarter. . This new disc features works by Beethoven, Gluck, Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninov and Liszt.

Kickstarter Limited Edition

Bijelovic opens this new CD with a novel feature, a two minute talk about the works played and the reason for his choice. Fuller commentaries on each piece from Bijelovic can be heard at These are very informative with the occasional amusing anecdote.

The first work Bijelovic plays is Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57. ‘Appassionata’. The Allegro assai has a thoughtful opening that contrasts well with the fiery allegro which Bijelovic projects to the full. He has a fine rubato that points up all the drama and a left hand that delivers all the underlying nervous tension. Bijelovic’ technique is first rate. He catches all the ebb and flow, all the tensions in this music with a tremendous fluency, not missing any of the poetry. Bijelovic resists the temptation to overstate the opening of the Andante con moto with playing of reserved control before gently allowing the pulse to increase, allowing a little underlying tension to show through. There is playing of some beauty here in the way that this pianist subtly colours the left hand line. This is finely controlled playing creating an arch like feel as the music returns to its opening tranquillity.

As Bijelovic strides into the Allegro ma non troppo of the finale, again there is that terrific rubato and a left hand line that gives the music so much passion and tension. The Presto brings playing of fire, power and dynamics leading to a tremendous coda.

This is a remarkably fine Appassionata.

This recital continues with Gluck’s Melody from Orfeo and Euridice (arr. Sgambati). Whilst Bijelovic’s poetic side was apparent in his Beethoven, here in Gluck’s Melody he displays it to the full. This is a lovely encore piece that receives a beautifully judged performance. The climaxes are occasionally a little brittle, perhaps due to the recording which is otherwise very fine.

Bijelovic displays a reserve in the opening of Chopin’s Ballade No 1 in G minor, op. 23. What may at first seem rather too steady an opening soon develops into just the right tempo and flow, rising to some fine climaxes. For all the slower tempi in the quieter moments there is a feeling of freedom, spontaneity even – and always that fine rubato. He climbs superbly through this Ballade with playing that demonstrates his fine touch, fluency and sheer technique in an account that is nevertheless finely considered.

Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 1 is a fine choice for this recital with its somewhat dark, unsettled nature  so very well highlighted by Bijelovic who again holds back, never allowing the music to be rushed. In the more volatile passages this pianist shows some terrific playing, fiery yet controlled. His considered approach pays dividends even more this time, bringing out so much more of Chopin’s troubled nature.  

Bijelovic’s degree of reticence brings a new light to Debussy’s much played Clair de Lune from his Suite bergamasque as if he is sitting at the piano improvising. Yet, as before, with his Chopin, when he allows the music to build, it is all the more impressive for his earlier holding back. In many ways this is a mesmeric performance.

Who couldn’t resist Bijelovic’s vibrant performance of Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G minor, Op. 23, No. 5, beautifully paced, full of strength and power, with an affecting middle section that draws out so much pathos. I loved this performance.

Viktor Bijelovic concludes his recital with Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, with phrasing and tempi that point up Liszt’s changeable rhythms. He shows some lovely limpid playing as well as the ability to pull together Liszt’s slightly manic changes of mood where one doesn’t often know if the music is atmospheric, serious or simply having fun. This performance is great fun to listen to, showing Bijelovic’s formidable technique with nothing that Liszt can throw at him presenting any problem.

As a calling card this disc is, no doubt, intended to show his versatility and range but I found myself wanting to hear more of his Beethoven and Rachmaninov.

Viktor Bijelovic is a fine pianist that will be worth watching. I am sure that we will be hearing more of him. The new disc is well recorded in the Jacqueline du Pre Hall, St Hilda’s College in Oxford.

Available from Amazon and iTunes


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