Piano enthusiasts get double treat

January 12, 2007|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Piano enthusiasts who subscribe to the Anne Arundel Community Concert Association and South County Concert Association are in luck this month.

A reciprocal agreement entitles members of either group to attend the other's concerts, so some from both groups were treated Friday to a classical concert by award-winning Russian pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine.

In two weeks, at Southern High School, another award-winning classical pianist, California-raised Alpin Hong, will peform.

Moutouzkine, 26, revealed a delightful and offbeat sense of humor in his introductions to his musical selections, suggesting that Chopin's "Three Songs" might have been motivated by the composer's intent to captivate young ladies, a goal he apparently achieved.

Of Tchaikovsky's The Seasons - January's By the Fireside and February's Carnival - he said a Russian January is "so cold that all anyone can do is stay by the fire."

He described how Russians celebrate the impending end of winter in February: "Men from neighboring towns lining up to face each other in fights that continue until only one man remains standing."

Moutouzkine began his program with a technically proficient reading of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" that featured a brisk tempo and polished playing but seemed a bit detached and somewhat reminiscent of advanced piano exercises.

The Tchaikovsky music chosen by Moutouzkine was not the familiar romantic concerto repertoire but fascinating pieces that created a muted-color portrait of his native country. Pianissimo delicacy blended with flashes of musical intensity embellished by sparkling arpeggios and virtuosity.

Moutouzkine moved to an exciting peak by ending the first half of the program with 20th-century Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera's Three Argentine Dances, a work that engaged the pianist more fully than any of the earlier works. Moutouzkine captured Ginastera's signature gaucho rhythmic vitality and warmth.

The second half of the program included Shostakovich's "Three Preludes," which provided an interesting contrast to the more romantic selections.

An elegantly played "Three Songs" underscored how much this pianist was in his natural element interpreting Chopin, whose melodic gifts were conveyed in the pianist's whispered light touch.

Moutouzkine rose to even greater heights in his splendid crafting of Chopin's "Sonata 2," the third movement of which contains the famous "Funeral March." Moutouzkine again played with exquisite softness to convey a sweetness and contrapuntal echoing quality that set the stage for the inexorable confrontation of death.

The program ended on a brighter note with a dramatic version of Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2," a familiar work that Moutouzkine breathed new life into through the force of his energy and musicianship, complete with his own spectacular cadenza that had applauding audience members on their feet and breathless.

Although Moutouzkine's full program allowed no time for encores, concert subscribers can soon hear rare piano artistry again. Alpin Hong, who, like Moutouzkine, has played at Carnegie Hall, will bring his energy and versatility to the South County Concert Association stage in Harwood on Jan. 26.

The Abaca String Band will perform at the next county concert association concert, scheduled for April 4 at Severna Park High School. Information on the series in Severna Park: 410- 647-4881. At Southern High School: 410-956-4881.

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