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The Eclectic Pianist

New York
BargeMusic, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn
07/22/2011 -  

Jean-Philippe Rameau: I. Les Tendres Plaintes; II. Le Rappel des Oiseaux; III. L’Entretien des Muses;
Andrew Rudin: Museum Pieces for Piano Solo;
Mohanned Fairouyx: Piano Miniatures for Solo Piano (Including two World Premieres, Piano Miniature No. 7 and Bargemusic to Beth Levin
Robert Schumann: Davidsbünder-tänze (Books I and II), Opus 6

Beth Levin (Pianist)

M. Fairoux, B. Levin (©Coco T. Dawg)

Beth Levin is a most elegant pianist, as she proved in her recital last night. She also, in four works, displayed an encompassing repertoire which ranged from early French Baroque up to the present day. Even in her contemporary music, where both composers were present, Ms. Levin could not have chosen more diverse composers.

Certainly her opening, four works by Rameau, were played with a lovely touch. She never played, Landowska style, trying to imitate a harpsichord or virginal. At the same time, no hint of thefortepiano was evident. The playing had finesse, the trills–and we had hundreds of them–were clean and dynamic, the sounds were nuanced but still quite 18th Century

On the other side were the Schumann Davidsbünder-tänze, always an enigma for pianist and listener. We are supposed to know that this is musique à clef, where Schumann was showing contrasts of Florestan (the man of action) and Eusebius (the dreamer). And we’re also supposed to know that Clara Schumann was the dedicatee, with a few secret love poems entangled in the music.

But if we aren’t aware of this, then the music sounds like a series of well-made songs ranging from the tricky and hysterical to the nocturnal. With Ms. Levin’s playing, I wasn’t really aware of the schizophrenic character of the pieces, but she played the complete set with precision and artistry.

A. Rudin (©Coco T. Dawg)

The two composers present here couldn’t have been more different. Andrew Rudin’s Museum Pieces have titles of 19th Century music (Preambule, Berceuse, Etude, Nocturne etc), but they are the work of a man who has mastered all the techniques of today….or perhaps yesterday. For the atonal pieces, fiercely difficult but taken with lucidity by Ms Levin, are so masterly in composition that they left one with a cold, almost frigid feeling.

I had the idea that each of the seven movements could have been presented to any composition class and analyzed for their atonal structure, their theme variations (many of them repeated in the finale) and harmonies. Worthy of respect, of course, but perhaps devoid of spirit.

The young Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairoux was on the other end of the spectrum. Many of his eight Piano Miniatures could have been written by Robert Schumann. They were simple, barely dissonant, and in their very absence of pretense, as charming as they were anachronistic.

Harry Rolnick



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