Pianist Alan Di Cenzo, a Washington native, drew a large audience to the National Gallery of Art Sunday night, and his program seemed designed to be a real crowd pleaser.
Opening with two Scarlatti sonatas, Di Cenzo offered a silky tone and ease of execution. The first (in E major, No. 23), however, was played at an unusually slow tempo that hampered the interpretation. In the first three of Prokofiev's "Visions fugitives," Di Cenzo could have made better use of the composer's limited tonal palette. The basic shapes were acknowledged, but the flavor was a bit bland.
The pianist achieved mixed results in a set of four Chopin pieces. There was little luster to the upper register in the C-major Etude, Op. 10, No. 1, and the third work from Op. 10 was unevenly paced and voiced. Di Cenzo created a fine sense of motion in the lilting Barcarolle, with good balance between melody and accompaniment. Despite a wagging tempo, the G Minor Ballade had a nicely shaped melodic line leading to a forceful, secure conclusion.
The first movement of Beethoven's "Appassionata" Sonata, Op. 57, was too erratic with regard to speed, dynamics and accents (the trill motive was virtually absent). But the second and third movements, played with excellent technique, were much more settled, with a tighter grip on structural and expressive matters.