Fulfilling his job as recitalist at the University of Maryland International Piano Festival, James Tocco indulged in a hefty program of works that emphasized the instrument's diversity Monday night. The renowned pianist will continue to work during the week as a judge for the competition part of the festival.
*J.S. Bach's immensely popular Italian Concerto, BWV 971, was delivered with clean, agile finger work in the brilliant first movement and ethereal pianissimos in the solemn andante.
Written "in the Italian taste" for solo keyboard, the concerto simulates a single line with an orchestral accompaniment, which Tocco evoked beautifully with his dynamic control.
Busoni's "Fantasia After J.S. Bach," composed in memory of the virtuoso pianist's father, is based on three of the baroque master's organ sw,-1 sk,1 works. Tocco seemed uncomfortable with a few of the runs, and parts of the opening chorale theme were dry and flat.
Still, he produced luminous effects in the upper registers.
Moving to bigger frontiers in the Liszt-Busoni "Fantasia and Fugue on Ad nos ad Salutarem Undam" from Meyerbeer's opera "Le Prophete," Tocco showed signs of wear from the taxing program. He began and ended vigorously, but fell short in the middle section. Most impressive was his projection of the orchestral colors and his firm attack of chords.
The highlights of Chopin's Twelve Etudes from Op. 10 were the selections in E flat minor and C major (Nos. 6 and 7). Each piece combined a superb legato line and cantabile phrasing.
The propulsion created in the C-major work was truly astonishing.