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Sara Daneshpour at Smithsonian American Art Museum

In the interest of full disclosure, the author of this review also attended the Curtis Institute of Music, his time there overlapping minimally with the subject of this review.

Sara Daneshpour, pianistSara Daneshpour, D.C. native and second prize winner in the 2007 William Kapell Competition, offered an impressive recital for the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s free Steinway Series. The 2000-2006 renovation of the 1841 building in downtown Washington included the addition of the intimate yet heavily carpeted 346-seat Nan Tucker McEnvoy auditorium. Daneshpour’s program featured the works of Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and Prokofiev.

Twenty years old and a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music having studied with Leon Fleischer, Daneshpour plays with an introspective pianism that quickly differentiates her from the bizarre hair and trashy encores of her respective Curtis counterparts Lang Lang and Yuja Wang, both of whom studied with Gary Graffman. Daneshpour’s incredibly even tone and supreme control of dynamics and tempo were immediately evident in Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor, while the room’s dry acoustic allowed every detail to be heard.

The large-scale dynamics and phrasing were also evident in Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B minor, where moments lacking in power were made up for with poise and refinement, particularly during lyrical sections. With a rather high bench, at times Daneshpour appeared to have to push down toward the keys. Daneshpour appeared better able to create her desired outcome with the challengingly dry acoustic in the second half of the program.

Other Reviews:

Daniel Ginsberg, Sara Daneshpour (Washington Post, September 16)
Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme by Corelli was very strong, yet expressive extremes perhaps could have been less contained. Scriabin’s mellow Prelude and Nocturne for the Left Hand made one yearn to hear Daneshpour play French music, while Prokofiev’s Sarcasms, op. 17, was packed with color, virtuosity, and percussiveness. Prokofiev’s Toccata was approached without excessive tempo, thus allowing absolute control, clarity, and as a consequence, strength and the brilliant impression of a quick tempo.

Daneshpour exploited the divine suspensions in her encore -- a Scarlatti B minor sonata -- with a quick, yet perfectly maintained tempo allowing every note to be heard. It might be interesting for Daneshpour to move her repertoire away from warhorses toward less well-trodden paths -- early music, for example -- and to give each program a coherent theme. Keep an eye on this promising young artist.

The next concert in the Steinway Series at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which takes places on the second Sunday of each month, will feature jazz singer Sharon Clark and her quintet (October 12, 3 pm).


Mark Barry said...

"overlapping minimally with the subject"

:)) could you please clarify.

Michael Lodico said...

Silly editor...

Charles T. Downey said...

Get your minds out of the gutter! ;-) Clarification added.