Timing is the elusive gift that makes athletes champions, stockbrokers millionaires, and pianists artists. It is the one element of Alicia de Larrocha's talents that makes everything else she does possible. From the moment she addresses the keyboard, her grace and the pure kinesthetic freedom of every motion make the beauties of her playing inevitable.
Her Kennedy Center concert began last night with the six Beethoven "Bagatelles" Opus 33, pieces whose sophisticated naivete holds all sorts of possibilities. She tantalized with them. She sidled from phrase to phrase. She teased and she dallied. She found and explored all the marvelous fun implied in their transparent structures.
From there she moved to an authoritative account of the Bach A Minor English Suite, played with telling rhythmic integrity. And then, with barely a pause, she launched into a smashingly effusive performance of the Bach-Busoni version of the famous violin Chaconne. What a piece! It starts innocently enough as Back, Disguised for piano, but rapidly, like a musical incredible hulk, is transformed into pure Busoni, then which there is nothing more Victorian. It brought the house up, to its collective feet.
The post-intermission fare, Schumann and Ravel, was lovely but more predictable, the Schumann archly self-searching, the Ravel "Gaspard de la Nuit" propelled with enormous energy and a real sense of the diabolical.