Pianist Rudolf Firkusny played a big program at the University of Maryland last night with the most delicate sense of intimacy. One might expect an opening Haydn Sonata to be on the light side, and, indeed the E-flat Major Sonata barely touched the ground. Firkusny tossed it off with a dexterity that appeared heedless but that took care of the smallest detail.
But certainly the word "intimate" does not spring to mind when Schubert's big sonatas are mentioned; ponderous, perhaps, or even, in the wrong hands, precious. Nevertheless, after the initial disappointment occasioned by the announcement that the Schubert Sonata Opus 42 would replace the originally scheduled small Schubert pieces and the Beethoven Sonata Opus 110, Firkusny led the audience in a thoughtful and devoted exploration of this lovely piece, revealing through quiet introspection ideas that more expansive and romantic performances so often miss completely. It was a delightful reading and unceasingly interesting.
The Debussy "estampes" flowed with a completely satisfying sense of motion.Firkusny has such control over balance and touch that there were never any glitches or hitches.
The concert ended with a busy "Fantasy and Toccata" by Martinu, written for Firkusny. As a composer, Martinu has his ups and downs. This is somewhere in the middle, a splendid vehicle for the sort of exquisite pianism Firkusny can muster, and, beyond that, harmless.