Pianist Alicia de Larrocha was absolutely in her element yesterday as she brought to a capacity Kennedy Center Concert Hall crowd a collection of her trademarks, music by Granados and Falla and Chopin's Twenty-four Preludes. All these she played with the authority and poetry for which she is famous and with a searching imagination that keeps them fresh and new.
De Larrocha has the gift of appearing to mold the passage of time to suit her artistic designs. Throughout Falla's "Fantasia Baetica," she threw herself into storms of musical activity only to interrupt all motion with an uncanny sense of balance, dangling the next note before the ear with an almost unbearable suspense.
Granados' "Escenas Romanticas" is a lovely set of movements, unjustly neglected and full of musicianly details that give an intellectual dimension to their gentle romanticisms. Their introspective nature flourished under de Larrocha's light touch and sense of proportion that left even the cascades of runs sounding delicate and human.
The Chopin Preludes are a collection of snippets--some fully developed, some germinal--constructed about no common formula or idea, and called preludes simply for lack of any other appropriate label. As a set, their progression through the major and minor keys gives them a certain logic, and their succession of human moods gives them a modicum of unity. However, it is up to the performer to give them artistic coherence, and this requires, in particular, concentration. De Larrocha was unflagging. She created mood after mood with decisiveness and control. Her power was as impetuous as her rubatos were premeditated, and she lavished as much attention on the simplest 16-measure movement as she did on the most demanding blockbuster. It was glorious.