Two quirks distinguished Argentine pianist Ivan Citera's recital last night at the Terrace Theater even before his fingers touched the keyboard. According to Kennedy Center publicist Mary Johnson, the artist insisted that the following conditions be met:The piano could not be positioned 90 degrees parallel to the stage. This allowed most of the audience to view Citera's hands as he played. And nimble creatures they were, leaping and prancing across octaves with grace and precision.The house lights would be extinguished, plunging the audience into darkness. Although Citera and the piano were illuminated, the program wilted under the spotlight. Citera proved himself more a well-trained than an intuitive performer.

Citera peaked with his opening selection, Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera's Piano Sonata No. 1, a work that uses -- and abuses -- the entire keyboard. Inventive harmonic structures, insistent rhythms and gorgeous bursts of tonal color were bent and shaped by Citera. The delicate third movement, marked "Adagio molto appassionato," and the final rondo of the fourth movement aptly demonstrated Citera's remarkable technical skills.

Three Chopin works, Ravel's "Gaspard de la nuit" and Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6, were, at best, demonstrations of music's most basic definition: organized sound. Regardless, the audience encouraged an encore.