Thomas Schumacher

The solo recital by pianist Thomas Schumacher at the Lyceum in Alexandria Sunday afternoon was a veritable master class in virtuosity. Schumacher possesses technical and intellectual gifts equal to any segment of the piano repertoire, as he displayed amply in the program chosen for this occasion.

Beginning with a Siloti transcription of a Bach prelude, Schumacher played with a tonal beauty and textural transparency that framed the remainder of the afternoon. Mozart's Sonata in B flat, K. 570, was playful but brilliant, a perfect foil for the pyrotechnics of Prokofiev's Sixth Sonata, which followed. Schumacher provided all the power and facility the Prokofiev required, while emphasizing clearly the work's continuity as well.

The carefully shaded colors of Ravel's "Valses Nobles et Sentimentales" and the balance of expressive depths and technical display in three Rachmaninoff preludes and an e'tude-tableau served to reinforce the powerful impression of Schumacher's abilities.

-- Roy Guenther

Gary Louie and Charles Stier

Composer William Albright contends that beautiful sounds, intuition and imagination reign supreme in music. His compelling Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano has all of the above. In a masterful rendering by saxophonist Gary Louie Saturday night in the Terrace Theater, its restless rhythms did not abate, even when the music became tranquil. Sharing the recital with clarinetist Charles Stier, Louie exhibited clear, even sound in all registers and first-rate musicianship.

Robert Muczynski's "Time Pieces," Op. 43, for clarinet and piano contained fascinatingly urban sounds, so apt in a society controlled by awareness of time. Stier performed it stylishly, but when he turned to Schumann's romantic "Fantasiestucke," Op. 73, his playing was flawed by cursory phrasing. Not so with Louie's renditions of pieces by Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Ravel, in which his tone and shading once again captivated the audience.

The accompanist was pianist William Bloomquist, whose hallmarks were sure technique and sensitivity.

-- Norman Middleton

Peter Himmelman

The Bayou had a three-for-one sale on new acts Sunday night, but that didn't seem to help business much. Attendance at the WHFS-FM (99.1) sponsored show, headlined by Peter Himmelman, was sparse.

Drawing heavily on his new album, "Gematria," Himmelman played suave folk-rock that, on songs such as "Salt and Ashes," sounded vaguely Dylanesque. Except for some shrill keyboard accents, Himmelman's four-piece band was as reliable as its leader's pleasant but undistinctive songs were consistently well crafted.

Preceding Himmelman was Big Bang Theory, a local quartet that has mastered a variety of wiry dance beats but seldom manages to put a personal stamp on them. The show opened with Eastern Bloc, an engaging if unexceptional New York pop-rock trio featuring Ivan Kral and former David Johansen drummer Frankie LaRocka. -- Mark Jenkins

Johnny Clegg

Long before Paul Simon made his African pilgrimage, white South African Johnny Clegg fused African and Western pop music styles in a band called Juluka. That group disbanded, but Clegg is currently fronting Johnny Clegg and Savuka, a six-member multiracial group of South Africans.

Clegg has pushed a political slant to the forefront of his music, and Sunday night at the 9:30 club he relayed an optimistic message without being dogmatic. The wistful, haunting melody "Asimbonanga" was a powerful commemoration of heroes, including Nelson Mandela and the late Steve Biko, who devoted their lives to the fight against apartheid.

For most of the night, the stress was as much on a feel-good sound as it was on polemics. Despite more than a few sound glitches, the music was always eminently danceable: an infectious hodgepodge of lilting, polyrhythmic synthesizer percussions, vocal chants and derivative but appropriate guitar riffs. Clegg danced with hyperkinetic energy to the percussion workouts of "African Shadow Man" and "Africa Sky Blue." -- Alona Wartofsky