A Brilliant Recital

On Tuesday, April 25, the pianist Marie-Luise Bodendorff, born in Germany, but now a resident of Denmark, gave an enthusiastically received recital of virtuoso pieces by Debussy and Liszt. The recital was part of a popular series of “after work”-concerts at the Simon Peters Church in Copenhagen, instigated by its organist, Jesper Gram Petersen. The church acquired a new Steinway “B” grand piano in December 2016, and this very lovely-sounding instrument was put to good use by Bodendorff.

I have heard Marie-Luise play numerous times, and regard her as one of Denmark’s finest pianists. It is fascinating to witness her constant development, and to hear how her music-making steadily gains in subtlety and nuance.

She opened her recital with Debussy’s Estampes. Three highly different impressionist sketches, picturing respectively the Far East, Granada, and French gardens in a rainstorm, very convincingly interpreted. Bodendorff’s assured toying with colours and dynamics, practically orchestrating the pieces, made one eager to hear more Debussy from her. The Spanish-inflected Soirées dans le Grenade even made me think that Bodendorff’s temperament would be well suited for Spanish composers such as Albéniz and Granados, music that is all too rarely heard.

The remainder of the recital was made up of works by Bodendorff’s favourite composer Franz Liszt. First came the Mephisto Waltz No. 1 in a scintillating reading, at a level of strength and poetry to challenge the very best. The various episodes of the rhapsodic work were characterised with great assurance, the contrasts between the demonic and the lyric brought startlingly to life. Not many pianists are this accomplished. Also worth noting is Bodendorff’s ability to tailor her sound and volume to the very fine, but not particularly big concert hall of the church, thus demonstrating a feeling for nuances that further underlines her excellence!

We ended with a wild chase, i.e. the eighth of Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Etudes, entitled Wilde Jagd. The etudes are commonly held to be among the most difficult works ever written for the piano, but in Bodendorff’s hands it did not seem to be so. Her towering technique and virtuosity truly shines in this repertoire, causing an audience member to remark: “You make it sound so easy!”. A rousing conclusion to a brilliant recital!

The concert served as preparation for a piano competition, XII Concorso Internazionale “Musica Insieme”, arranged by Scuole di Musica Claudio Monteverdi in Musile di Piave near Venice. It would seem that the jurors were as impressed as the audience at the recital, for Bodendorff won First Prize, “Primo assoluto”, scoring 99 out of a possible 100 points! We congratulate Marie-Luise on her victory!