Last night at the National Gallery, Dennis Lee took on sonatas written early in the careers of Prokofiev and Brahms and the great work of Ravel, "Gespard de la nuit." In much of this, Lee proved his mastery of the piano and the music.
The Second Sonata of Prokofiev and the First Sonata of Brahms were written by composers who were barely into their 20s. Each presents serious problems for the interpreter. The slow movement of the Prokofiev sags in interest; the Brahms is wildly undisciplined and full of horrendous technical hurdles. Throughout the program Lee's musicality was apparent.In the slow episode in the finale of the Prokofiev, the lyrical playing was expressive. The virtuosity required in the Brahms was generously supplied with a high degree of accuracy in the taxing pages.
Ravel's epic "Gaspard" is another giant that faces pianists of the strongest gifts. Its outer movements came from Lee's fingers with fire and conviction, and admirable color was supplied by the pedals. But there are areas of dynamic gradation and differentiation in touch in the central section, Le Gibet, that eluded him. The encore, Liszt's Petrarch Sonnet 104, glittered, if without the ultimate poetry.