From the wide world of fantasias for piano, Edward Newman made patrician choices for his National Gallery concert last night. Variety was assured by following the C Minor Fantasy of Mozart with the superb work by Ross Lee Finney written four decades ago and cruelly neglected since then.
With two fantasies by Chopin -- the F Minor and the Polonaise-Fantasie -- and the seven workd of Opus 116 to which Brahms gave the overall title of "fantasies," though four are intermezzos and three capriccios, Newman provided an elegant overview of some of the ways composers were moved to express their fancies for a century and a half.
With this kind of thoughtful approach, Newman emerged again as the musician Washington has known him to be for years. Nearly all of his piano matched the eclectic choices. The piano sounds beautiful under his hands, whether in quiet, legato passages or in the largest, most demanding technical displays. The Finney Fantasia, music that should be heard frequently, is a striking contemporary score inspired by the Mozart that preceded it. Newman played it with penetrating mastery.
His Brahms, too, was rewarding in breadth of phrasing and the power that filled its dramatic pages. In both Chopin fantasies there was a fine feeling for style. Only in the martial passages of the F Minor did the combination of tempo and touch result in a rather glib effect.