Imagination is lacking in recital of seldom-heard music

December 09, 1991|By Stephen Wigler

Ruth Laredo's piano recital last night in Shriver Hall offered some of the most highly colored music ever written for her instrument: three mazurkas by Chopin, a Scriabin group that included the orgasmic Ninth Sonata (the so-called "Black Mass") and Iberian music by Albeniz and de Falla. The only classical work was Beethoven's Sonata No. 23 ("Appassionata"), one of the most torrid pieces in the repertory.

Unfortunately, the prerequisite for such a program is coloristic imagination and ability. And of these -- though she has both temperament and technique -- Laredo did not have enough to make the music consistently compelling. Her limitations were immediately apparent in the Chopin mazurkas that opened the concert. Her sound was brittle, overloud and incapable of much in the way of contrast or nuance.

After a short speech about Scriabin's music that showed how articulate an advocate for music Laredo can be, she proceeded to that music. She has long been identified with it -- more than 20 years ago she was one of the first pianists to record all 10 of Scriabin's sonatas -- and she played the "Deux Morceaux" (opus 57), "Poeme" (opus 32, No. 1), two etudes (opus 42, Nos. 3 and 4) and the "Black Mass" Sonata with lucidity and conviction, which are important qualities in so potentially incoherent a composer. What I missed in her performances of the suggestively named "Desir" and "Caresse Danse" was the slithering sensuousness that makes a listener think he needs to take a shower afterward. And while her technique satisfied the demands of the "Black Mass," there was not sufficient imagination to make its pent-up eroticism explode.

Beethoven's "Appassionata," which followed the Scriabin works, was honestly played but a little dull -- as were two excerpts from Albeniz's "Suite Espanola."

The best playing of the evening came in a transcription of pieces from de Falla's "El Amor Brujo," which the pianist performed with assurance and with an appropriately languid manner.

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