Pianist Piotr Anderszewski makes Shriver Hall debut

December 3, 2012

Polish-Hungarian pianist Piotr Anderszewski is on a U.S. tour this month, making his first return to the Washington area since a recital at the National Gallery of Art in 2006. For his debut at Shriver Hall in Baltimore, where he played Sunday evening, the program paired two of the composers whose music he has recorded to critical acclaim, Bach and Schumann. Anderszew­ski is not a fastidious fine-tuner of sound at the keyboard, but he used a broad palette of articulation and voicing to put his mark on some familiar pieces.

He chose Bach’s third and sixth English suites, and they made an ingenious pairing. Anderszewski added many small embellishments to the score, taking all of the repeats, but never to the point of obfuscating Bach’s music. In both suites, he made the preludes flashy and fast, the allemandes melancholy and smooth, the courantes more active, the gavottes light and prancing, and the gigues forceful and even tragic.

Anderszewski gave Schumann’s Fantasy in C, Op. 17, an unforgettably mercurial reading by applying an often-tempestuous rubato. He gave the slow, tender themes of the first movement, including the quotation of Beethoven’s “An die ferne Geliebte,” a forlorn quality, drenched with nostalgia that then vanished mid-thought.

The second movement was a rigidly military march with a playful approach to the many dotted rhythms, and the third was a rhapsodic meditation. Doubly sad, then, that the final page of this performance had to compete with a cellphone that not only rang but had the volume set so loud that all around could hear the owner’s voice-mail announcement.

Downey is a freelance writer.

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