Tomsic shows controlled power

July 27, 1996|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

COLLEGE PARK -- Dubravka Tomsic's greatness as a pianist was apparent in everything she played in her recital Thursday night in Tawes Theatre.

In Scarlatti's slow F minor Sonata (K. 19) -- the first of seven by that composer which opened the program -- she showed a beautiful tone, limpid finger work and a touch delicately calibrated enough to conjure up the timbre of the guitar. She was just as wonderful in the composer's brilliant pieces as in his gently reflective ones. The D minor (K. 9) and G major (K. 125) sonatas were played in a sparkling style in which the pianist's s virtuosity -- the ease of her wide leaps at high speed and crossings of either hand with the other -- served the music by emphasizing its astonishing harmonic clashes and unexpected phrase lengths.

The secret of Tomsic's virtuosity is control -- control of tonal dynamics and control of rhythm -- in other words, how much and when. This made her performance of Beethoven's overplayed "Waldstein" Sonata sound utterly fresh.

In the slow introduction to the sonata's finale, every note was graded and every note was punctual. In the final rondo itself, Tomsic took a heroically fast tempo that, superficially, may have seemed to contradict the composer's "Allegretto moderato" marking. But this pianist's sense of rhythm is so secure that it permits her to play expressively at almost any speed: The rondo's four-bar tune moved so easily that it sounded almost andante, and the accompaniment had a rhythmic and dynamic BTC potential that became sheer dynamite as they acquired momentum. Even at the breakneck speed at which she raced to the sonata's prestissimo coda, Tomsic's tempo still sounded firm and unhurried. Her trills were perfect, each fingered such that they contributed something different to the richness of the tonal texture. And she dispatched the famously difficult alternating octaves of the coda with ease that must have made pianists in the audience envious.

The first movement -- with its feather-weight repeated notes, its satiny passage-work and the sledge-hammer of the sforzandos at climaxes -- was no less impressive.

As was everything on the second half of the program -- in which Tomsic played the neo-Bartokian "Maecedonian Dances" of her husband, Alojz Srebotnjak, and three pieces from Ravel's "Miroirs" and the Toccata from his "Le Tombeau de Couperin."

In the "Miroirs" excerpts, the pianist drew out the haze-like, dreamy colors of "Oiseaux tristes" with an exquisitely poignant sense of line and depicted the waves in "Une barque sur l'ocean" with mounting excitement.

She attacked "Alborada del Gracioso" with bite and audacity. But it was a humid night that made the difficulties of Ravel's gleefully cruel repeated-note technique in "Alborada" even more difficult than usual because some of the keys on the by-then-slippery keyboard of the pianist's Hamburg Steinway began to stick. Two or three misplaced chords in the "Alborada" only served to remind one that there are rare occasions when Tomsic is only human.

Pub Date: 7/27/96

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