There are few things more unpleasant than listening to piano music of Chopin being brutalized on a Sunday afternoon.Had Michael Lewin confined his assault to that composer alone during his recital at the Phillips Collection yesterday, one might have been able to get over it, but this young New Yorker proved to be an indiscriminate grappler.
Like so many other misguided pianists, Lewin tried to make a grand statement out of every piece he played by pounding the hell out of the piano every chance he got. That technique has been known to make for exciting, if inartistic, listening, but audiences have a right to hear the correct notes being pounded. Inaccuracies can hardly crop up in deafening bunches.
Crop up they did throughout Chopin's B flat Sonata, a work which was clearly out of Lewin's reach. Even more disturbing than the mechanical deficiencies, however, was the lack of interpretive skill. It was a performance without any vestige of poetry, which is to say a performance unworthy of Chopin.
Although Lewin revealed a bit of sentiment and restraint in one of Liszt's Sonetti del Petrarca," his delivery of the "Mephisto Waltz No. 1" was uncomfortably unrefined. He saved his most secure playing for the premiere of David Kosis' "Four Preludes," which did not quite deserve the attention, full as it was of empty, if occasionally entertaining bravura.