Having explored all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas in the Beethoven Edition of her ongoing Gorenman Piano Project over the past several years, American University’s Yuliya Gorenman has now moved on to a Chopin Edition. Her performance of that composer’s Op. 60 “Barcarolle,” B-flat Minor Sonata No. 2 and the four Ballades at AU’s Katzen Arts Center on Saturday was the technically brilliant and uncompromisingly muscular account of someone determined not to allow any sentimentality to seep into the Chopin canon.
All well and good, but this tough-love approach also relegated the poetry that makes Chopin’s music unique to occasional glimpses, in the openings of the last two of the Ballades, in some of the crystalline finger work of the sonata’s Scherzo and in some of the urgency that propelled the Barcarolle. Gorenman has power to spare but — as in the last time I heard her perform in this small and very lively hall on a piano voiced to brittle hardness — this power too often came across more as aggression than passion, leaving buried the interior lines that Chopin intended to speak so eloquently.
In this performance, Gorenman’s forte (no pun intended) was movement and momentum. She was able to just hint at rubatos without interrupting the music’s flow, communicate urgency without ever sounding rushed and, although an occasional opportunity to enjoy a little feeling of repose and serenity might have been welcome, make the inevitability of the music’s destination compelling.
Gorenman needs to tailor her delivery to her surroundings (and she needs a different piano). This performance might have been stunning in a venue like Constitution Hall. At Katzen, it was stunningly loud.
Reinthaler is a freelance writer.