Monday, May 25, 2009

Ang Li

At last, some first-rate Brahms! Not to be confused with the similarly named Taiwanese movie director, Ang Li competed here four years ago, but seems to have come of age since then. Representing the country of Canada, she gave an excellent reading of Brahms' Third Piano Sonata, an early work in which the German composer was laboring under the influence of Liszt. The fast movements were sprightly, and the slow movements featured the same full, round, juicy tones that I've heard from the best Brahms interpreters. Varying her sound and demonstrating a lucid understanding of the piece's far-flung structure, she guided the audience through this lengthy and complex work.

Then she did a clever version of Debussy's "Minstrels" and a performance of "Feux d'artifice" that was less pretty than Spencer Myer's, but brasher and more evocative of fireworks. She ended with a toccata written in 1957 by English composer Edwin York Bowen, and made a case for this unfamiliar piece as worthy of standing beside other toccatas such as Schumann's and Prokofiev's. An excellent program, all in all.

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