Kennedy Center filled with magic by pianist Tipo

November 20, 1993|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

Maria Tipo may not be a household word, but the 61-year-old Italian pianist's reputation among connoisseurs is such that her recital last night completely filled the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. It was a typical Tipo recital -- filled with magic from the first notes of Mozart's Sonata in E Flat (K. 282) to the thundering chords that concluded Chopin's "Black Key" Etude, her final encore.

That Tipo, unlike most Mozarteans, did not come to grief in this relatively early work was because she understood and was able to articulate the songfulness at its heart and was able to trace the dancelike rhythms that organize it.

Five Scarlatti sonatas showed why Tipo was dubbed the "Neapolitan Horowitz." When it comes to crossing hands, runs and thirds and sixths, wide leaps and rapid repeated notes, this pianist is dazzling.

But this was a composer of more substance than the Scarlatti Horowitz once offered us. The middle section of the G Major Sonata was permeated by the play of light and shade and by a streak of sentiment that never became sentimental; the syncopations of the E Major Sonata had a direct, unaffected playfulness; and in the A Major Sonata, the pianist's rhythmic verve was seductive and her infallible fingers produced a superbly articulated storm of sound.

Schumann's nocturnal "Davidsbundlertanze" was the major work in the second half of the program. This is Schuamnn's most difficult major work. The problems are not those of technique, but those of art history. The 18 dances it comprises seemingly ramble at will, driven by the manic-depressive moods of its composer. There is no unity in the usual sense. This is music that obeys the laws of the unconscious.

Tipo entered completely into this fantasy-laden piece, with its child-like naivete and idealism and its very adult passion, nostalgia and sadness. From beginning to end, she made the "Davidsbundlertanze" sound like an improvisation, even making sense out of its conclusion as she shut the door on Schumann's tormented imagination with subtly voiced chords that tolled like the end of the world.

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