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In performance: Vladimir Feltsman

Web-only review:

Feltsman offers pianistic "Pictures"
by Joe Banno

Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," with its mix of descriptive tone-painting and virtuosic hurdles, is a good litmus test for a pianist's interpretive priorities. If Vladimir Feltsman dug deep into the piece to find all the color and texture he could at his Washington Performing Arts Society-sponsored recital Friday at Strathmore Hall, his probing seemed more out of a desire to illuminate the innovation and atmosphere of the score than to paint specific musical pictures.
(read more after the jump)

The composer imagined a series of aurally evoked paintings, with a "Promenade" theme weaving between the "pictures" to suggest the museum-goer walking among them. In purely pictorial terms, Feltsman's lickety-split speeds in the "Promenade" movements suggested track-suited art lovers sprinting breathlessly through the galleries. But musically, they formed a fascinating theme-and-variations study in instrumental color.

Likewise, "The Old Castle" morphed into a seductive danse macabre, the conversation between the "Two Polish Jews" was clearly about contrasting dynamics and rapid-fire articulation, and the lumbering oxen of "Bydlo" stopped midway through their progress to philosophize.

If Feltsman's "Pictures" was more of a pianistic than painterly exhibition, it was unfailingly perceptive and masterfully played. So, too, was his alternately craggy and tender performance of Beethoven's "Pathetique" Sonata, and his elegantly turned reading of Haydn's rarely heard, strikingly proto-Beethovenian Sonata in E-flat, Hob XVI: 49. Like other Haydn-championing virtuosos, Feltsman made us wonder why this composer's marvelous keyboard works aren't the fixtures of the recital stage they should be.

-- Joe Banno

By Anne Midgette  |  March 29, 2010; 5:45 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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It's disturbing that the Post does seem to want to give review space to an important pianist like Vladimir Feltsman, who performed at Strathmore last Friday evening, but that it has to appear on a blog. I have used a computer since the early 70s, but guess I am not so familiar with "searching" - it took me at least 5 minutes to find this review. I attended the concert, and find Mr. Banno's review quite fair, but I would like to know what the encores were. Thank you.

Posted by: turnaphrase | March 29, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

@turnaphrase, the encores were both Chopin: Waltz in F minor, Opp. 70, No. 2 and Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2.

Posted by: SamanthaP5 | March 29, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Vladimir Feltsman's career is longer than that of Lattisaw and the unknowns whose appearances on TVOne received so much physical space in the hard copy of today's Post. The "diagram?" "cartoon" about some sort of contest (on page 2 of Style) likewise seem to be just a placeholder for the "readers you would like to have." This is just the sort of trivia that turns off those who've been reading the paper for more than half a century. Let the "readers you would like to have" do the hunting/gathering; put really important cultural items, such as Feltsman's concert, in priority, read hard copy, locations.

Posted by: Daisy7 | March 29, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

My 2ยข --

Posted by: Charles_D | March 29, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

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