The recent silver medal winner of the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, Santiago Rodriguez, was nothing short of brilliant yesterday afternoon in works by Debussy, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Granados at T.C. Williams Auditorium in Alexandria. The familiar sounded fresh, and the afternoon was one of passions and delight.
Rodriguez is a pianist for whom accuracy and craft are but elementary building blocks, to be taken for granted as poetry takes over. In seven Preludes by Debussy his moods ranged from peaceful at the outset to thunderous in the final "Feux d'artifice." With Beethoven's "Appassionata" Sonata No. 23 in F minor, he followed the composer's violent contradictions with a gift for bending each note without once breaking the phrases. It was an extroverted interpretation of intensely private passions, and the Kennedy Center would do well to look to this pianist the next time it has a Beethoven festival.
Chopin's popular Ballade No. 1 in G minor was almost coy in its reluctance to join in the more obvious rhythms, ultimately giving itself to the dance with total commitment. Rodriguez then did not pause for applause and added the Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor. Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 was breathtaking in its show of stamina, speed and beauty. It was sheer and peaceful beauty that ended the concert, as Rodriguez gave a refreshingly crisp reading of one of the "Danzas Espanolas" by Granados.