Almost 10 years ago Panayis Lyras won first place at the University of Maryland International Piano Festival and Competition. He returned last night to the scene of his triumph, appearing this time as an established concert artist on the festival's evening recital series.
Schumann's Op. 18 Arabeske was veiled and subdued, but underneath the exotic hush were a judicious youth of rubato and a heightened awareness of phrase structure. Schumann's Sonata in G Minor, Op. 22, was muffled at first, and the right-hand octaves did not shine as they might have. Lyras' touch turned velvet in the inner movements of the sonata. He stroked the keyboard and produced a very appealing tone quality. The rondo finale's demanding tremolo passages, attacked with a nicely relaxed arm, were extremely smooth and light.
A dry and brittle edge popped up in parts of Liszt's "Vallee d'Obermann" and Debussy's "L'Isle Joyeuse" seemed a bit stern at times. But throughout it all, Lyras showed a thoughtful musicality.
The evening's best playing came last in Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." Masterful in many ways, his approach made the piece come to life in the middle "ballet" section. Here Lyras extended his understated approach and embraced the score's vivid portrait quality.