Soviet pianist Alexander Toradze, who played a recital Sunday night in the University of Maryland Piano Festival, is in town this week as a judge in the university's William Kapell Competition -- which is an interesting twist. Toradze first became known here through another American competition -- the Cliburn -- where he won a silver medal in 1977.
It is easy to hear right off why Toradze wins contests. He has one of those powerhouse techniques it takes only about three minutes to spot; a blazing manner, with great power and sometimes astonishing accuracy. Based on this recital, he appears given to strong contrasts both of tempo and dynamics, and there was some especially lovely soft playing. In passages in his recital like those famed repeated note measures that adorn Ravel's "Alborado del gracioso," Toradze's precision and speed would be hard for any player to best.
Often throughout the evening, Toradze would attack a passage with almost acrobatic daring that another fine pianist might launch into more moderately. He obviously seeks to dazzle and he often succeeds.
If there are general grounds for criticism of Toradze's program, they would relate to the relative shortage of lyricism or charm in the choice of works as well as in some of the playing. The five Ravel "Miroirs" are not all the kind of fireworks that you get in "Alborado," but some of the playing was exquisite. Oddly, the music on the program with the greatest lyric warmth was the bittersweet slow movement of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata.
The concert opened with a commanding performance of Liszt's seldom played "Variations on Bach's 'Weinen, Klagan.' " Hearing it in the Liszt anniversary year was worthwhile, but it is one of those pieces whose sonorities are more massive than its ideas.