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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Quality piano recitals in BA show first-rate technique

By Pablo Bardin
For the Herald

If recent piano recitals in our city are reliable signs of a general situation, I would say that the world is crawling with talented pianists capable of giving quality recitals. The main aspects common to all three artists I am going to review are first-rate technique coupled with a deep knowledge of styles. The first two started the Chopiniana series coordinated by Martha Noguera at the Palacio Paz, back at that splendid Oval Room, alas with rather too resonant acoustics.

I was surprised by the announcement of the visit of 82-year-old Joaquín Achúcarro, and then delighted with the results, for at that age there can be a considerable falling off in the mechanics of playing. If I’m not mistaken, this is his fourth visit; the last time he played Falla with the Orquesta Nacional de España under Frühbeck de Burgos for the Mozarteum in 1990. He explained to the public the qualities of the Variations on a theme by Schumann written as a homage by Brahms, and played them with real empathy and beauty. Then, a Chopin Nocturne (No 5) lovingly played with fine tone, two Waltzes (pity, there were mistakes in No 10, but the posthumous No 14 went swimmingly) and a strong performance of the famous Heroic Polonaise.

Not surprisingly, he was in his element playing Granados and Albéniz. In fact, now that the matchless Alicia de Larrocha is no longer with us, Achúcarro must be one of the best specialists in this classy Spanish repertoire. He gave us relevant information about El amor y la muerte, the longest number of Goyescas (Granados), and played it with poetry and insight. Then, two of the numbers of Iberia, that intricate and important suite by Albéniz: the fast and rhythmical El puerto and the evocative El Albaicín (a Granada borough). Finally, by the same composer, the brilliant Navarra, showing off Achúcarro’s stamina and firmness. Three admirable encores: a refined Clair de lune (Debussy), Chopin’s Prelude No 16, and a perfect Nocturne for the Left Hand, one of the most attractive Scriabin pieces.

Michael McHale has been here before (twice, I believe), and I liked him, but this time I was much more impressed. His touch can be ethereal, as in Debussy, or extremely forceful, as in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an exhibition, or flighty as in the two fast Op. 90 Schubert Impromptus, and his mechanism is practically without blemish even in the hardest pieces. He played two Irish songs at the end of the first part and another two as encores, but in Danny Boy he suddenly “went” to the USA with a wild jazz improvisation.

I liked his well-contrasted Schubert, and I truly enjoyed his two pieces from Debussy’s Estampes, Soirée in Granada and Gardens under the Rain, fluent and mercurial; I was sorry that he didn’t include the first, Pagodas. As to his Mussorgsky, it was dramatic and intense, and I didn’t miss the orchestra in The Great Gate of Kiev as I often do, so big (but unforced) was his tone.

A few years ago I heard Emilio Peroni play Brahms with the National Symphony and I had then the impression of a solid pianist. This Argentine artist has been living in Germany for many years. Still young, he came back for a really satisfying Sunday morning recital at the Usina del Arte. For one thing, he dominates the art of programming: first, those wonderful late Variations in F minor by Joseph Haydn, played with crystalline clarity. Then, he fulfilled one of my dreams: to finally hear live some of Dvorák’s piano music (his complete production fits seven vinyl records that I treasure), so pleasant and unheard: he played four of the six pieces of Op. 52. A tough challenge afterwards: three of the dazzling Moments musicaux by Rachmaninov, which were attacked with power and control. Then, a well-contrasted and colourful rendition of the Ravelian Valses nobles et sentimentales. He ended the programme with Chopin, a fast Scherzo No 3; and the encore was also Chopin, the airy Prelude No 3.

The National Symphony offered an interesting night at the Auditorio de Belgrano conducted by Carlos Vieu. Although there were a few flagrant mistakes (trumpet, horn) and some bad intonation, Vieu is a convincing and intense interpreter, who encompassed the various moods of Shostakovich’s admirable Sixth Symphony. In the first part we heard a nice El tarco en flor by Gianneo, and a good rendition of Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the orchestra’s pianist Marcelo Balat, a young and fresh talent who did very well except for one passage where memory failed him, but the end result was positive.

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Edition No. 5055 - This publication is a property of NEFIR S.A. -RNPI Nº 5343955 - Issn 1852 - 9224 - Te. 4349-1500 - San Juan 141 , (C1063ACY) CABA - Director Perdiodístico: Ricardo Daloia