Pianist Nikita Magaloff has had a distinguished European career since the 1930s, but is known to American audiences primarily through his recordings, especially of Chopin. His concert last night at the University of Maryland International Piano Festival was a rare opportunity to hear firsthand the work of this fine musician -- a man who received his early training from the likes of Siloti, Prokofiev and Ravel.

The recital opened with a sassy and sparkling rendering of Mozart's B-flat Major Sonata, K. 281, followed by the Chopin B Minor Sonata, Op. 58. The largo of the Chopin seemed dry and a bit fussy, as though Magaloff were playing only for himself, but the scherzo was incredibly fast, light and exciting. And the wonderful finale with its low, rolling theme was outgoing and aggressive, with Magaloff attacking the final statement as an eagle does its prey.

After intermission came the Ten Preludes, Op. 23, of Rachmaninoff. With exceptional artistry, Magaloff created from them 10 little musical stories: an angular melody being jabbed by a moody, neurotic accompaniment; a seriocomic march by a Russian clown; a quiet tune that becomes an ecstatic love song. It was a performance to be savored and remembered. -- Ed Roberts