A native of Santa Cruz, Calif., Chetan Tierra started his program with Liszt's Ballade in B minor, and he was pointed and strong in the flashy and demonstrative parts of the piece, while bland and dutiful in the quieter, more introspective parts. This pattern repeated itself through the other selections in his recital. He followed it with Liszt's transcription of Schumann's "Widmung," which in its original form as a song is a radiant piece of work but as a piano work is rather buried in too much frippery. (Which is Liszt's fault more than the pianist's.)
You'd think that Tierra's strengths and weaknesses would make him a bad fit with Brahms, but he played the Variations on a Theme by Paganini, one of the German composer's more extroverted works, and he brought a welcome touch of vinegar to his playing that he didn't have in the Liszt pieces. He finished with Alberto Ginastera's Piano Sonata, the piece best suited to him. He did excellently with the Latin rhythms in the opening movement, and he finished strong. Let's see if it's enough to get him into the semis.
Interesting note: Tierra's a keyboardist in an alt-rock band.