Pizarro brings lyricism, control to Tchaikovsky piano concerto


February 13, 1993|By Robert Haskins | Robert Haskins,Contributing Writer

Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto -- performed last night by pianist Artur Pizarro and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Christopher Seaman's direction -- was declared unplayable by its intended premiere performer, Nicholas Rubinstein. It is now a staple of many a concert pianist's repertoire and easily one of the most familiar concertos in the repertoire.

And herein lies a special problem for its interpreters -- how does one say anything new with such well-known music? This sort of challenge is perhaps even more daunting for a young pianist like Mr. Pizarro, who only gave his professional debut recital four years ago.

Opportunities for breathtakingly virtuosic display abound in this concerto, of course, but this was not the most striking asset of Mr. Pizarro's performance. While the pianist possesses an impressive, quite natural technique, there were indications that the physical demands of the work had not quite become second nature to him.

No, Mr. Pizarro's greatest musical gifts evidence virtuosity of an entirely different order. He can, for instance, shape a melodic line in a most singular, compelling fashion. Tchaikovsky's beautiful melodies emerge with infinite care and nuance, so that their unfolding is unusual but never affected.

Also notable is Mr. Pizarro's tonal control in soft, mellifluous passages, which rivals the smooth legato of a great singer.

On occasion, even the most brilliant passagework and arpeggios possessed a miraculous silkiness, but every note remained distinct.

Taken in toto, Artur Pizarro's physical approach to the piano seems more natural than that of many pianists his senior.

In the second half of the program, the BSO presented Shostakovich's mighty Fifth Symphony, an important symphony in one of the most impressive symphonic catalogs of any 20th-century composer, and a popularly celebrated masterpiece in its own right.

Mr. Seaman led a sturdy reading of the work, especially impressive in the serene stillness of its quiet, lyric passages and for the enviable conveyance of larger musical paragraphs.

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