An audience at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville was quite dazzled last night by the digital prowess of a 19-year old French pianist named Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
There are lots of supercharged young virtuosos around these days, but you won't hear many of them playing with greater speed and accuracy than Thibaudet, who was a winner of the 1981 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and is now a student of Aldo Ciccolini.
At 19 that kind of razzle-dazzle facility is usually combined with brashness of tone and a tendency to play too loud. Not here; very much, in fact, the contrary. One thing that impressed throughout the evening was the evenness and purity of Thibaudet's tone, and his ability to play sustained passages really softly.
He brought an unaccustomed lineal poise to the mostly neoclassical impressionism of the Debussy and Ravel that constituted the first two-thirds of the program.
Even so abused a work as the "Clair de lune" from the "Suite Bergamasque" sounded fresh--cool and chaste with each note beautifully voiced. And in Ravel's more lush and virtuosic "Jeux d'eau" the cascading scales were remarkably articulated.
And Thibaudet caught the tone of French irony that so often appears in these evocations of Baroque forms as viewed through impressionist prisms--as in the mordant little fugue from Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin."
Thibaudet broke into a grander scale in the Liszt blockbusters that ended the program, the second Ballade and that dizzying arrangement of the waltz from "Faust." He was just as steady as he negotiated Liszt's shimmering trills, gushing scales and figures and sparkling glissandos.
This particular kind of program does not a deep interpreter prove. But if the young man can harness his physical command of the keyboard to works that are communicatively more complex, there is much to look forward to. Last night he had already given more than one could expect of a player of his years.