If one were to sort through the entirety of the varied corpus of works for solo piano with the notion of assembling the greatest musical landmarks for that instrument, it is very likely that one would arrive at the three pieces Moura Lympany performed last night at Tawes Theatre.
For this, the fifth evening concert in the University of Maryland's Piano Festival and Competition, Lympany tackled some of the most difficult and some of the most disarmingly beautiful pieces in the piano repertoire.
It takes a certain daring to play "overused" music in the concert hall. Many would consider Beethoven's Sonata Op. 27, No. 2, just such a work. The artistic sucess--something often far removed from popular success--of the "Moonlight" Sonata rests very much in the pianist's ability to conquer what has become trite through the ages.
Lympany commanded a performance marked by a dramatic understatement of themes. Her playing was extremely clean and lucid, and it displayed a straightforwardness that would suit almost any sonata of Mozart or Haydn.
She was just as impressive for her swift keyboard technique as she was for her refined sense of style. Franz Liszt once called the Allegretto movement of the Op. 27 sonata "a flower between the abysses." In Lympany's hands, the depths of the outer movements were as compelling as the flowerlike Allegretto.
Schumann's Fantasie, Op. 17, resists all temptations of becoming a flashy showpiece like so many works of the same era. Instead, the Fantasie demands the most delicate of approaches, technically and emotionally. About the Fantasie, Liszt reported to a pupil that "everyone plays this opening movement in too vigorous a style. It is preeminently dreamy, altogether the reverse of noisy and heavy."
It is unfortunate that at last evening's recital, the piece suffered from precisely what Liszt stated. From the opening passages to the introspective last movement, the work seemed too thick and heavy, not light and shiny as it should have been. Even as the texture improved, some technical problems arose that marred the performance.
A tribute of a different sort, Brahams' Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24, makes an interesting contrast to Schumann's private meditations. The Variations were intended for concert use, and Lympany's execution of the difficult Brahms proved engaging. Her grasp of the whole of this taxing work prevented any feeling of fracture within the set of variations.
Much of Lympany's playing served as an excellent reminder of the indisposable teachings of her instructor, Tobias Matthay. Always one who advocated the clearest singing tone in the face of any obstacle, Matthay surely would have been pleased with Lympany's performance. Perhaps the three much demanded encores--works by Debussy, Chopin and Rachmaninoff--served as the best example of Matthay's great teaching and his pupil's fine learning.