Nils Frahm Monument-National, Montreal QC, May 30
Published May 31, 2013In almost pitch-darkness, German pianist Nils Frahm began on electric piano, flanked by two prepared pianos, one of which, the upright, had the front of the case removed so you could see the hammers hitting as he played. After two pieces, Frahm greeted the crowd and explained he had just flown in from Berlin and was very tired, which you could clearly hear in his performance. A couple of minor blunders here and there were not an issue, as he was not playing to a seasoned classical crowd but a generally more forgiving audience, but the performance lacked a certain amount of lustre, as well as, at times, veering a little too much into deliberate heartstring-pulling Nyman-lite territory. As the set went on, however, Frahm gradually pulled his shit together, the most engaging track being a delightfully loud number played on electric piano and synth. Frahm's use of loops to augment his playing worked really well, but it was a shame there wasn't more of it. After a standing ovation, he came back for a redeeming encore of the two of the most beautiful, and genuinely emotive, tracks of the set. A hugely talented composer and player, it was a real joy seeing Frahm hammer away at the piano, marvelling at his speed and dexterity, especially in playing two separate keyboards at the same time, but for a performance at MUTEK, it may have been more appropriate to focus more on the melding of acoustic and electronic.