No matter what kind of music you like, the odds are that you will find it somewhere in the Piano Sonata of Henri Dutilleux, which Washington pianist Gail Delente performed yesterday at the Phillips Collection. She played it very well, after warming up with Beethoven's Sonata in E-flat, Op. 27, No. 1, which sounded considerably better at the end than it had at the beginning. In the Beethoven, one could hear the pianist warming to her work--her touch and phrasing becoming subtler and more fluent, her involvement getting deeper--though at no point did Beethoven seem to involve her as much as Dutilleux.
The contemporary French composer (a bit of a specialty for Delente) demands virtuoso finger-work by the double handful, leaping and gliding all over the keyboard, glittering in the treble and growling in the bass. He offers warmly pulsating romanticism in the slow movement, accented by jagged rhythms and interrupted by a middle section that wanders not quite aimlessly but almost pointlessly. He uses motor rhythms as Barto'k did at his most "barbaric," hints of impressionism, a soupc,on of jazz flavor, and more than a hint of atonality. He concludes with an intricate series of variations, based on a very portentous chorale melody. It is a very bright, busy work, full of interesting ideas and only slightly longer than its substance justifies, and its brilliance was well conveyed.
Delente concluded with stylish readings of three Debussy "Images" and the Chopin Scherzo in E.