A pedestrian evening of Beethoven is not something to cherish. But that is precisely what Rudolf Firkusny gave his audience at the Terrace Theater last night. It was a disappointing surprise.
The beginning was fine, with Beethoven's short Sonata No. 27 in E minor. A strong introduction already showed a broad dynamic range and promised a delicate touch. There was discretion and correctness in his use of the pedal, and an air of serenity seemed to flow through the score. There were more than glimpses at the hands and mind of a master at work.
But said hands and mind then hid for the rest of the night. Were it not so well-known, it might have been difficult to recognize the famous "Pathetique" Sonata No. 8 in C minor. There was no thunder in the dark clouds that open the work, and little was made of the daring and grave E-flat minor second theme. The first movement was rushed beyond Firkusny's powers, so that tempos became irregular each time his right hand had to cross his left. What might have been urgent and tense emerged as carelessly phrased. After a lovely respite for the middle adagio cantabile, the third movement also sped by, with little contrast possible when true acceleration was required.
After intermission Firkusny appeared more relaxed, and the opening of the "Moonlight" Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor at least offered a personal touch. But the speed of the third movement, and its misplaced arpeggios, made little sense. There were trappings of elegance in its middle section and again in the Sonata No. 30 in E minor, which closed the concert. One really wished for more.