One of the world's elder statesmen of the piano, Louis Kentner, played last night in recital as part of this year's University of Maryland International Piano Festival and Competition.
Kentner's recital at Tawes Theater was distinuished by his tender, unhurried approach to everything he played.
Kentner is essentially a throwback to an earlier age of music-making. He has a heroic, romantic quality to his art, a quietness that is founded on a profound musicality. With Kentner, there is no unnecessary pianistic heaven-storming at the expense of a musical statement. In some ways, he plays the piano in much the same way Carlo Maria Guilini conducts an orchestra - with deep introspection, no flashiness for the sake of flashiness, and always with a winsome legato.
He may not have the imposing technique of pianists half his age - he occasionally misses some notes - but Kentner brings authority and musical maturity to the art of piano playing.
Kentner's musicality is such that even in a second-rate work like Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13" - which is nothing more than trite gypsy music - he gets more music out than Liszt ever put in.
Above all, Kentner was most impressive in Liszt's "Dante Sonata," which under his sensitive touch had a ringing power and near-orchestral sonority, especially in its ringing bass tones. His account of "Un Sospiro," from Liszt's three concert studies, had special airiness, while "La Leggierezza" paid astute attention to the delicate filigree figures.
Several Chopin works also were on the program, and they were played in the same spirit as the Liszt works. But Kentner might better have chosen instead the Chopin Nocturnes.
At Kentner's disposal was a magnificent Bosendorfer Imperial Concert Grand, on loan to the university for this year's festival.