Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thomas Pandolfi gives piano recital adding Beethoven Pathetique, Gershwin Concerto

Pianist Thomas Pandolfi gave his second piano recital at the First Baptist Church of Washington DC on Sunday March 15, 2009, at 4 PM. The recital was well attended.

Some of the program duplicates a recital there on February 24, 2008, already reviewed. This included opening with the heaven-storming Liszt Dante Santa (D Minor).

In the first half of the program, he added the Beethoven Piano Sonata #8 in C Minor, the Pathetique (Op. 13).

The Sonata dates from about 1797 and is actually from the early period, even though it already sounds “romantic” to most ears. The “sturm and drang” is pronounced, with extreme contrasts in tempo in the first movement, a practice that Beethoven would adopt later frequently. By way of comparison, the C Minor Piano Concerto (#3) sounds more “classical” to most ears. The strettos and harmonies in this work have never sounded as original to me as the music in the middle period, however. In some ways, the Pathetique reminds me more of the “Mannheim Rocket” Sonata #1 in F Minor than the later Appassionata. Pandolfi’s performance tended to compress the strettos and transitions a bit. The performance took about 16 minutes, but it sounded a bit “Toscanini-like.” There was no first movement repeat.

It seems that none of Beethoven's minor-keyed Piano Sonatas go into major for a triumphant ending. Beethoven would introduce the romantic practice in his 5th and 9th symphonies. The Third Piano Concerto goes into major, but the effect seems light by comparison. Mozart does this effectively in his 20th Piano Concerto (but stays in minor in the 24th).

It's worthy of note that Beethoven's Piano Sonata #30 (E Major) figures into a critical scene in the gay film "Trick" and that particular music is indeed an interesting and ponderous choice. The "Appassionata" (#23) builds a critical episode of the series "Everwood" which later will use #17 (the "Tempest").

He added a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody in C# Minor, not the hackneyed #2, but instead #12 (dedicated to Joseph Joachim) a piece that is a bit more subtle.

After the intermission he repeated his medley of Gershwin songs, recreating the tender family culture of the 1930s and 1940s (the epic time that my parents met and married and brought me into the world), a world that has changed so much since. The performance got me thinking about what their life had been like then. Then he played a transcription of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F for Piano alone. He says he write all these Gershwin transcriptions and improvisations himself. It’s an effective way to get to play the music in public, but without the orchestra it’s a bit like a reading of a screenplay rather than the full music. Yet, it still dazzled. This is music with real emotional impact.

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