Reprinted from yesterday's late editions Malcolm Frager is one of those rare artists who fills simultaneously the de-description of a musician's musician and a pianist's pianist. That is to say, he is as well endowed with intellectual refinement as he is with pyro-technical glitter.
Substituting for ailing Also Ciccolini on four days' notice, Frager launched the performing series of the University of Maryland's Seventh Annual International Piano Festival Sunday night with solo recital at Tawes Theater.
The Start and the finish of the recital made a perfect illustration of the roundedness of Frager's talents.
The opening Haydn Sonata in G Major (Landon No. 13) was a model of sholarly restraint and elegant classicism. By contrast, Frager's final encore - Listzt's 8th Hungarian Rhapsody - was a roof-raising display of velocity, power and showmanship.
In between came a pair of sonatas by Schumann (G Mino, Op. 22) and Chopin (B Minor, Op. 58), as well as the seldom played but gorgeous "extra" Prelude by Chopin, the harmonically darling C Sharp Minor piece not included in the well-known set of these works, Frager gave evidence of a remarkable balance between the demands of musicinaly rigor and those of sensual expression.
The Schumann Sonata, for instance, is the one with a rather notorious set of temp indications. The composer marked the beginning (in German) "as fast as possible." Then there is no further marking until the coda, where one finds, first, "faster", and then, "still faster."
The key to coping with paradox, as Frager demonstrated, lies with the word "possible." Frager started at a pace that seemed as fast as human fingers could move - without bluring the melodic contours or their agitated underpinnings. Then, in the coda, it was devil take the hindmost.