A forceful, mature personality with a formidable technique and playing of emotional depth.
Just as the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was heading into its final weekend in Fort Worth, a star of the 1997 Cliburn, Jan Jiracek, turned up at Alice Tully Hall to give a dazzling performance of the Liszt E flat major Concerto with the Riverside Symphony. Mr. Jiracek was a favorite among critics and other music professionals as well as with the audience in 1997, and he was the clear winner in an informal press room poll, but the jury apparently thought otherwise. That he was not awarded one of the top three prizes seemed proof that the mechanisms for selecting the most original and exciting players in competitions are fatally flawed.
Mr. Jiracek seems none the worse for the experience. His fresh, buoyant account of the Liszt on Thursday evening created the illusion that this showpiece is a greater work than it is. That isn't to say that he ignored the showiness. In the opening bars he produced as grand a sound as one could want and showed that the flair for dramatic phrasing that was his hallmark in 1997 remains a central part of his arsenal. Nor did he skimp on the fireworks in the finale.
But there was more than that. Mr. Jiracek knows when and how to let drama melt into lyricism, or to transform a solid wall of piano sound into a texture of crystalline clarity. And his reading of the Allegro vivace was crisp, spirited and enlivened by a subtle humor.
A Young Majesty at the Piano
Germany’s man at the piano, Jiracek joins the ranks of a new generation of pianists who do not need to fear comparison with pianists of the past.
Where is Jiracek´s artistic home? The pianist answered this question handily in his astonishing appearance in the praiseworthy Philharmonic Series "Sundays at Four: Piano" - everywhere from Bach to Messiaen.
A captivating performance. Right from the opening bars Jiracek captivated his audience by exemplary clarity, dynamic restraint and equal attention given to both thematic lines and accompaniment figures. Even more important, however, was an interpretation that convincingly elucidated the compositional logic and coherence of the work. A truly sensational concert.
Jiracek possesses a muscular, broad, colorful technique, makes music with great spontaneity and communicates strongly with his listeners. His program showed his strenghts, his impeccable taste and his love of music.
Typical of a Jiracek performance, the repertoire itself bespoke a pianist of remarkable stamina and range of emotion, stretching from mentally demanding middle-period Beethoven to the 20th-century mysticism of Oliver Messiaen, and including muscles-stressing works of Schumann, Chopin and Stravinksy.
Jiracek met the challenge with his usual combination of total technical control, expressive imagination and grasp of form and structure. In Jiracek's case, a firm central European approach produces crystal-pure, cosmopolitan musicality that lifts this music to a universal level.
Jiracek molded his unassailable technique to his command of musical architecture to build an impressive sweep of emotions and color.