Pianist Joel Wizansky made his Washington debut at the Phillips Collection in September 1987. Last night, more than three years later, the Phillips was lucky enough to bring him back for a second performance -- and a fine reappearance it was.
Wizansky, a pupil of Leonard Shure and Leon Fleisher, possesses the same innate musicianship as his teachers if not, as yet, the same measure of brilliance. He is a gifted pianist, one who clearly labors over nuance as much as he does over the relational impact of phrase and movement, and he knows how to piece together an interesting program.
One suspects that last night's selections, notwithstanding incendiary flashes in Haydn's Sonata in C, Hob. 48, and Schumann's "Humoreske," Op. 20, were chosen because they play very well to a particular strength of Wizansky -- pianistic introspection.
Elliott Carter's Sonata (1945-46) was the best example of this. Carter's music, never exactly easy on the ear, took on a rare bloom under Wizansky's touch: He sculpted an intricate latticework where lesser pianists might have left a couple of boulders.
In the Schumann work, Wizansky grasped the largely introspective intentions of the composer with ease. The fine legato melodies were buoyed on a sea of calm, and the numerous storms were handled with aplomb.
Magnificent though Haydn's Andante is, Wizansky's intense reading bordered on the overbearing. Similarly, clarity in the Presto suffered because Wizansky overreached himself. Less, in both cases, might have offered more.