Rachmaninoff, Sonata No. 2 (inter alia), S. Rodriguez
Two gigantic works were the focus, beginning with Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, in which Rodriguez brought this concept of composer-controlled improvisation to life. With effortless fluency, he gave the fantasy's roulades many different shades, catching just the extemporaneous quality the genre demands. The fugue, taken at a jaunty tempo, was not in any way morose, its chromatic vagaries like the arching of an eyebrow. The Bach was mirrored on the second half with Beethoven's final piano sonata, op. 111, with its first-movement fugue, taken again rather fast, and the sense of improvisation woven into the manic variations movement. In his comments, Rodriguez rejected any association of this piece with an awareness of impending death in the composer's mind, characterizing it instead as a desperate grasp at life, heard in the variation movement. Evgeny Kissin's performance of the work last year will likely never be eclipsed, but Rodriguez got many things right, just not as shockingly so.
Joan Reinthaler, Rodriguez ends International Piano Festival with imaginative takes on classical pieces (Washington Post, August 5)