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In performance: Sara Daneshpour

Web-only review:

Daneshpour offers wide range, contrasts in piano recital
by Charles T. Downey

Sara Daneshpour came to the National Museum of Women in the Arts on Tuesday night, to give a recital postponed because of snow back in February. The Washington-born pianist, who took second prize at the 2007 William Kapell Competition when she was just 20 years old, played with a combination of technical abandon, which was almost faultless, and elegant restraint of tone and volume.
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Daneshpour's strength in seeking out unexpected combinations of color was served best by two sets of variations, a form where the style and texture change regularly, as in Rachmaninoff's (endlessly) extended Variations on a Theme of Corelli. A nod to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann, later this year, came in the form of his Variations on the Name "Abegg." Exuberant, even inebriated outbursts followed Daneshpour's evanescent treatment of the theme, with the softer variations featuring skillful hand crossings and iridescent trills. Debussy's "Estampes" had a multi-layered sound, its three movements like misty vistas composed of washes of watercolor-like transparency more than individual brushstrokes.

The other side of the program was focused on pieces of daring virtuosity, none more impressive than Daneshpour's relentless and percussive rendition of Prokofiev's Op. 11 Toccata, played last and offered in the spirit of an encore. Liszt's concert paraphrase of themes from Verdi's "Rigoletto" was by turns nutty and trashy, the piles of small notes in purling runs given a translucent lightness. Daneshpour dropped a few notes, especially in the devilish section of repeated sixteenth-note chords, but almost everyone does. The only real shortcoming was in Beethoven's Seventh Piano Sonata, Op. 10/3, in which Daneshpour had some troubling hand slips, although the musical approach was sound. It felt like a late addition to an otherwise fully formed program.

-- Charles T. Downey

By Anne Midgette  |  April 8, 2010; 6:05 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  | Tags: Piano  
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I saw Sara do the Rachmaninov Corelli variations up at Strathmore a while back. It was pretty amazing then too. She definitely has a facility for making carefully calculated abandon feel spontaneous to a listener. Or something like that.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | April 8, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

On my liner notes to a recording of the Rach Corelli variations, it was said that Sergei himself would tailor the number of and sequence of variations to his response to the audience. If they came across as bored and restless, he would play fewer.

Posted by: kashe | April 9, 2010 8:56 AM | Report abuse

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