The Phillips Collection chose a fine pianist to open its 50th year of concerts last night. Pianist Edward Newman, no stranger to the Music Room, presented three major works; two of them are orchestral in concept and all three make considerable technical demands on the pianist. Newman's was, in all respects, a bravura performance.
The program opened with Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin," a suite of six pieces related to the harpsichord music of the 18th century. Unlike Ravel's earlier impressionist works, this is pianism at its purest, ending with a Toccata of virtuoso quality. The dynamic contrasts of this percussive movement were brilliantly executed, as was the lyricism in the earlier pieces in the suite.
Samuel Barber's E-flat Sonata is an American composition of complex thematic contrasts and fierce technical difficulties. Newman coped admirably with the rhythmic and technical challenges of this big work and ended it with a dazzling performance of the final Fugue.
Also orchestral in concept is Schubert's "Wanderer" Fantasy, with its wealth of melodic invention. The hammering theme that runs through the work was forcefully executed, and there were moments of exquisite beauty in Newman's performance of the lyrical interludes. A virtuoso performance of the final Allegro brought the work and his concert to an exciting conclusion.