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Finally, Extraordinarily: Roberto Cominati

Cominati - Garcia - MutiRoberto Cominati got around to give the recital for the WPAS Hayes Piano Series that he was supposed to give last season (where Konstantin Lifschitz substituted) – and it was well worth the wait. Born in Naples in 1969 Cominati might be pushing 40, but you’d never know from looking at the young, stylish, unmistakably – almost stereotypically – Italian man taking stage: With the jet black mane carefully combed back and a tailored suite that never once threw a wrinkle on his back he could pass as 27 if he needed to.

He would be betrayed by his playing, though. Un-self-conscious (quite in contrast to his exterior: He knows he looks good playing and he lets the audience know that he knows), mature, thought-through. It doesn’t happen often that a pianist plays so well and enchants that much without necessarily “impressing”. (The soft and subtle brilliance and musicality of Alfred Brendel is one recent example where a pianists didn't need to dazzle to delight.) With Robert Cominati it was a smooth blend of grown-up, high quality playing and technical accuracy that lend the Debussy of the first half of the program a silvery, lean quality.

Other Reviews:

Daniel Ginsberg, Roberto Cominati (Washington Post, March 20)
His playing, more brook than dreamily reflecting pond, was dotted with nice and crisp little accents; occasionally a phrase-ending drawn together chorale-like. In the Suite Bergamesque he kept the notoriously overplayed Claire de Lune free from overblown romanticism, fresh. The second book of Images ( Cloches à travers les feuilles, Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fût, Poissons d'or) had its notes hung on a mobilé, weightlessly suspended . Concurrently played notes in the left and right hands nicely contrasted against each other, rather than all taking on the same shade. In L’isle joyeuse he could have offered more judicious (less) pedaling, but all-in-all it was an extraordinary, always brisk performance. But even if the tempos were fast, that was not the reason that this performance was the quickest that an entire recital-half of Debussy ever went by for me.

His Schumann offered more of the same good stuff. With a firm bite and muscle, energetic and tight, Cominati used the Terrace Theater’s Steinway like an organ, especially in the Préambule… only to switch to a finer lilt, all of which was very entertaining. Although a southerner (apart from an uncanny resemblance to Andy Garcia he even looks a good bit like another famous musician from Napoli, Ricardo Muti – including the double handed, lateral hair swipe) he sounds more like Milano or Turino, more ‘German’ – which invariably brings the greatest German pianist of our times to mind, who also happens to be an Italian.

The 15th prelude of Chopin (barring faulty memory) was a welcome encore. The rotating bass notes came in understated, threatening and gradually tightening, like a vice – only to start over again… like a cruel game in which Cominati was in full control. Nothing cruel about the performance, though: This was – having unforgivably missed the Tharaud recital last year – the best recital I have heard as part of the Hayes Series yet.