Notebook

Insouciance

In Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the aria Là ci darem la mano is charged with ambiguity, being the callous seducer’s attempt to lure the innocent Zerlina into his embrace while Masetto, her fiancé, is otherwise engaged. Don Giovanni fails, so the music has come to represent thwarted ambition. As such Gabriel Axel used it with good-hearted irony in  Babette’s Feast to voice the rotund Achille Papin’s futile hope for the pastor’s daughter’s hand. Three weeks ago, in Warsaw, the winner of this year’s Chopin Competition, Bruce Xiaoyu Liu performed Chopin’s Variations on the theme in a ‘vividly detailed and amazingly insouciant’ rendering, writes Gramophone‘s Jed Distler. It is brilliant, with exactly the right measure of humour.