La Gesse Foundation, an organization dedicated to assisting young American pianists, presented R. Clipper Erickson at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater last night. The concert's first half was devoted to heady solo material, including Liszt's B Minor Sonata; after intermission Erickson accompanied violinist David Niwa and indulged in a delightful four-hand piano work with Edmund Battersby.
Two sections from Messiaen's "Vingt Regards sur L'Enfant Jesus" showed Erickson to best advantage as he created a sheen in the upper registers and assertively met the music's rhythmic demands. In Debussy's "Estampes," Erickson offered some sensitive voicing and crisp dynamics, although his phrasing might have been smoother in spots.
Liszt's tremendous Sonata, a match for any pianist's technique and interpretive skills, seemed unfocused and ill-planned. Erickson rushed many passages without apparent cause, yet the tempo lagged in the last portion to the point where the score couldn't stick together.
Erickson can handle the physical side of the sonata, but the expressive aspects will take time to develop.
Niwa, a 1987 graduate of the Curtis Institute, brought fine spirit to Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata, Op. 24. Battersby played the melody of Schubert's F Minor Fantasy with e'lan.