Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mariangela Vacatello (final recital)

An Italian playing the Italian Concerto! If that seems a bit predetermined, Vacatello didn't play it that way, delivering an Italian with more point and less color than Vondracek, though there was still plenty of color. I particularly liked the gentle but insistent rhythm she put under the "Andante." She then played Chopin's Rondo in E-flat, a relatively obscure piece that she rendered with aristocratic elegance and no small amount of humor. She couldn't convince me that the piece deserved more of a hearing (I think she could have done as well with a couple of Chopin's waltzes), but the pianism was attractive.

Then things took a bad turn with Gaspard de la Nuit, the first of three performances of this in this final round, after we had only one in the prelims and none in the semis. There were some slips in "Le gibet" and "Scarbo," but I could have forgiven those if she played it with the right unwholesomeness. This is a piece that needs to smell like death, and so far we don't have any evidence that this pianist can conjure that up. There was no edge of menace in any of the sections, and "Le gibet" lost all forward momentum. There was so little tension in "Scarbo" that I wondered if she wasn't just running out of gas at this point.

She did manage to rescue herself a bit in Shostakovich's Prelude and Fugue in D-flat major, preserving the Russian dance-like character of the piece and even playing it with a ferocity that she really could have used in Gaspard. It was a rousing conclusion, though I'm still not sure about her prospects going forward in this competition. She's got the two concertos left to play.

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