Robert Taub, a young American pianist on his way up, presented a songful, sober recital Sunday night at the National Gallery that, in its own quiet way, was rather stirring.
Each of the three works was a demanding test both of musicianship and of technique--at least technique of the predominantly lyric sort. There were Leon Kirchner's Sonata (1948), Beethoven's E-Major Sonata No. 30 and the 24 Chopin preludes.
Taub, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton who studied with Jacob Latiner and Gary Graffman, seems a reflective artist who takes enormous care with gradations of dynamics, inner voices and integrity of line.
As a result, the Beethoven went especially well. This is the most glowingly Schubertian of Beethoven's last works for his favorite instrument. Only once, in the little prestissimo between the two main movements, did the ferocious mode show through. Taub did not let it become more than a sharp flash in the sonata's Apollonian dimensions.
Many of the same strengths were beautifully used in Chopin's passionate gems. But while the passionate side was well served, the gemlike side needed a little further thought. In these exquisite little tone poems, the pulse should be tighter. There should be a steady frame for the tonal and harmonic glories. In the "Raindrop" prelude, where the pulse is explicit in every beat, Taub was steady; but elsewhere the pulse sometimes wandered.
The atonal Kirchner sonata is a rigorous but also passionate piece. There is a particularly memorable middle movement with a steadily repeated pulse like the "Raindrop." It was awash with sonorities that might come out of Liszt but with harmonies that most certainly would not.