Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
When a pianist makes structural as well as poetic sense of Schumann's "Davidbundlertanze," you know that he's an uncommon artist and that poetry is an integral part of his intellect.
Certainly there is nothing common about Alexis Weissenberg's artistry, and his playing of the Schumann at the Jewish Community Center Sunday night was a revelation.
He did not seem to struggle with the contrast of the impetuous with the dreamy. He did not wallow in the introspective bits or stomp through the showy bits. He seemed, simply, to play the music just exactly as marked and with an absolutely clear sense of where he was, and why, at all times. All the rest seemed to happen of its own accord.
What this means is that his Schumann is somewhat more straightforward than most, but no less expressive. Under his hands, "lustig" is lusty indeed, and "nicht schnell" may not be fast, but it doesn't drag either. He is the sort of expressiveness that depends on more subtle aspects of movement and touch.
The concert opened with a Cesar Franck "Prelude, Fugue and Variation" as arranged by Bauer, a piece that nicely bridges the chasm that separates the German Baroque from the French Romantic. Weissenberg managed to summon the flavor of baroque clarity but to season it with the soft glow of French sonority.
Five of Chopin's Nocturns and three movements of Stravinsky's "Petrouchka" completed the program.
The Chopin pieces are heard so often that it is hard to say anything new with them, but Weissenberg played them with such unaffected sympathy that they once again sounded fresh.
Weissenberg is not one to waste time between movements. Throughout this program he moved quickly from one to another, hardly pausing. In the Schumann this contributed to a feeling of coherence, but between the Chopin Nocturns, the quick shift to an entirely new key (from C minor to B major, for instance) was a jolt that was the only jarring note of the evening.
This was the first in what looks like a fine, six-concert series at the Jewish Community Center this season.