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22.5.09

Valentina Lisitsa

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Read my review on the Washington Post Web site:

Charles T. Downey, Hammering the Clavier: Valentina Lisitsa
Washington Post, May 22, 2009

The National Museum of Women in the Arts closed its season with a recital by Valentina Lisitsa on Wednesday night. The Ukrainian-American pianist unleashed a merciless two-hour assault on the museum’s timid Steinway, which did not really respond in terms of volume and tone. Lisitsa displayed plenty of technical skill and arm power but without the savvy to use it wisely. At the very least, limiting the loudest playing to climactic points would have helped create a greater sense of contrast.

The only way to have wrung a larger sound from Beethoven’s infamous op. 106 sonata (“Hammerklavier,” B-flat major) would have involved bludgeoning the keyboard with a mallet. By contrast to the urbane, immaculately limned performance of the work by Till Fellner at the Austrian Embassy last week, Lisitsa seemed to sling and slap sound in the direction of the musical canvas, à la Jackson Pollock. At the end of the scherzo, played as fast as Beethoven’s metronome marking, the B-natural octaves were slammed manically back to the home key. The third movement’s tempo fluctuated wildly, weakening the score’s architecture, and many fast passages were at the edge of control.

Rachmaninoff’s first sonata (op. 28, D minor) was equally brash and impetuous, with the soupy second movement over-pedaled into a soporific haze. A Shostakovich prelude and fugue (no. 24, D minor) provided an austere beginning, the prelude solid with thunderous bass and the fugue a murky contrapuntal treatment of one of the prelude’s melodies. The theme of the Schubert B-flat impromptu (op. 142, no. 3) was light and airy, but the variations were often rushed, causing Lisitsa to tangle up some of the right-hand filigree in the second one.
Valentina Lisitsa, piano
Shenson Chamber Music Series
National Museum of Women in the Arts

Schubert, Impromptus (op. 142 / D. 935), no. 3 in B-flat major
Beethoven, Piano Sonata, op. 106 ("Hammerklavier")
Rachmaninoff, Piano Sonata No. 1

The 2010 season of the Shenson Chamber Music Series at the National Museum of Women in the Arts will feature recitals by Sara Daneshpour (February 10), Sofja Gülbadamova (April 21), and Sarah Coburn (May 19).

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