Kuerti promises Candlelight glow

Master: Provocative pianist Anton Kuerti will perform works of four Germanic composers at Smith Theatre this weekend.

January 06, 2000|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On any given day of the year, pianist Anton Kuerti might be playing one of the 50 or so concertos he's mastered with the musicians of the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra or Washington's National Symphony.

Or he may be performing chamber music with such luminaries as violinist Gidon Kremer, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, or the GuarneriString Quartet.

Kuerti also could be found in the recording studio, for his efforts like the integral sets of sonatas by Schubert and Beethoven have been snapped up eagerly by keyboard aficionados the world over.

On Saturday, though, area music lovers can find this master pianist at Smith Theatre on the campus of Howard Community College, where he will be performing in the Candlelight Concert series.

The 8 p.m. recital will consist of works by the Germanic masters who sit at the center of Kuerti's repertoire: Mendelssohn's Fantasie in F sharp minor, three Schubert Impromptus, three Novelettes by Schumann, and the Opus 126 and began playing the piano at age 4.

At 11, he performed the Grieg Concerto with Arthur Fiedler and was soon studying with the likes of Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. A win in New York City's legendary Leventritt Competition catapulted him to the front rank of the world's virtuosos, a position he maintains.

Since 1966, Kuerti has lived in Canada, where he has become a sort of national pianist-in-residence with appearances in 110 Canadian communities and performances with all the country's professional orchestras; 35 with the Toronto Symphony alone.

Kuerti's pairing of Beethoven's 3rd and 4th piano concertos with conductor Andrew Davis and the Toronto Symphony (CBC #5179) contains some of the boldest, most cogently argued Beethoven pianism I've ever heard. Both are as good as any in the catalog.

Kuerti's affinity for the Beethoven concertos reached its peak on New Year's Eve 1998 when he accomplished the feat of performing all five in the same concert in New York City.

This is a pianist who seldom leaves listeners indifferent to what they've heard. The playing has immense personality, and his point-making can be revealing and provocative. Listen to the expressive way Kuerti handles the quirky dissonances in the opening movement of Carl Czerny's 1st Piano Sonata while maintaining an exemplary lightness of touch (Analekta #3141). If you thought this composer was only good for the knuckle-busting little studies all intermediate piano students play, you haven't heard this pianist at work.

In an age of cookie-cutter pianists where the competition circuit, endless travel and commercial pressures of the music marketplace have conspired to rob musicians of their individuality, Anton Kuerti is a reminder that not everyone has succumbed.

Candlelight Concerts will present pianist Anton Kuerti at 8 p.m. Saturday in Howard Community College's Smith Theatre, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia. Tickets are $24; $18 for senior citizens. Full-time students pay $9. Information: 410-715-0034 or 301-596-6203.

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