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From Characterful Bach to Sparkling Ginastera

Hong Kong
Concert Hall, Hong Kong City Hall, Central
02/21/2009 -  
Johann Sebastian Bach: Partita No. 1 in B flat, BWV825
Joseph Haydn: Piano Sonata in D major, Hob. XVI:37
Frédéric Chopin: Etudes, Op. 10 No. 12, Op. 25 Nos. 6, 1 and 12
Maurice Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit
Alberto Ginastera: Three Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2
Franz Liszt: Consolation No. 3Mephisto Waltz No. 1

Sergio Tiempo (piano)

Sergio Tiempo

By merely looking at the program, one can see that Sergio Tiempo is an all-rounded musician with a wide scope of repertoire. Like Martha Argerich (Tiempo’s mentor), Mr. Tiempo is amongst those rare pianists whose regular repertoire include the music from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, to Chopin, Ravel, and contemporary composers.

On Saturday evening, Mr. Tiempo opened his recital with a characterful reading of Bach’s First Partita. His pianistic approach, romanticized intonation, as well as the fervent articulation, were a kind of rarity that can only be found under Tiempo’s hands. In the opening Prelude, he decorated the filigree with utmost dexterity and ingenuity. In the slow Sarabande, every note was sung with a crystalline voice. The spontaneous and extemporaneous Gigue was a vivid contrast to Andras Schiff’s exquisitely and finely controlled reading of the same movement in last year’s Arts Festival.

Haydn’s Piano Sonata in D was another individualized account. Where most pianists attempt to underline the delicate articulation and dainty dynamics of this typical Classical sonata, Mr. Tiempo seemed more intent on mining this music’s emphatic emotional contrast and flimsy texture. The outer movements were overfilled with youthful vivacity and tonal transparency, while the slow movement was a profound expression. But for ears attuned to carefully refined and immaculately polished playing of Classical keyboard works, Mr. Tiempo’s performance sounded a little stodgy.

The following Chopin Etudes illustrated Mr. Tiempo’s ebullient and fiery musical style. He chose four technically dazzling Etudes, imbuing them with blistering velocity and amazing dexterity, but never treated them as virtuoso showpieces. Although they were not flawless finger-works, his mature and mellow interpretation made them a memorable experience. Tiempo’s rendition reminded us of Alfred Cortot’s historical recording, in which the stunning musicality far upstages his technical indiscretions.

The music after the intermission was a full display of Mr. Tiempo’s glaring virtuosity. Gaspard de la nuit, a standard showpiece of piano playing, became an improvisatory delineation under Tiempo’s nimble fingers. But those over-extroversive firing passages sometimes destroyed Ravel’s impressionistic atmosphere, a cardinal feature to this prose-poem inspired music.

Being a Venezuelan-born pianist, Mr. Tiempo was natively attuned to Ginastera’s Argentine Dances – this can be exemplified by his three encores of entertaining Latin-American music. Once again, all three Argentine Dances were rendered with almost improvisatory ebb and flow, arousing the audiences away from their seats. The technical challenges simply disappeared and sublimated beneath an eloquence that ebulliently brought out the charm and enjoyment of the tunes.

Liszt’s Mesphisto Waltz was the cynosure of the whole evening, and it pushed every concertgoer’s excitement to the climax. The technical demands were overcome without stress, and the rapt melodies in the middle section lovingly caressed our ear-drums. Although the reckless tempo near the end lead to a little concession to difficulties, his overbearing passion allowed him to be impetuous and still come across as insightful.

Sergio Tiempo’s unique temperament and idiosyncratic style, together with his sparkling technique, bring him the potential to be a great master in the piano history. Being merely 36 years old, and with a wide range of repertoire, this talented young man will certainly be a consummate musician after he reaches his full maturity. We are looking forward to his Chopin Concerto with Hong Kong Sinfonietta this coming Thursday. Keep tuned to ConcertoNet.com for its review.

Sergio Tiempo’s Website

Danny Kim-Nam Hui



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