Jose Feghali, the 1985 Van Cliburn Competition winner, has long since proved himself a clear, direct pianist with a bright, strong sound. What his Kennedy Center Terrace Theater recital Saturday night also displayed was this young Brazilian musician's charming and original approach to selecting music. And all of the dance-inspired pieces, from waltzes by Brahms and and Weber to Brazilian tangos and choros by Villa-Lobos and Nazareth, made for an appealing and sophisticated program; Feghali clearly took delight in playing, and the audience rewarded with a standing ovation.
Particularly engaging were the Brazilian works that opened the second half. These pieces, waltzes by Villa-Lobos and Oscar Lorenzo-Fernandez and a set of dances by Ernesto Nazareth, showed a marvelous combination of simple internal rhythms and super-sophisticated and often jazzy musical surfaces. Feghali, who provided charming introductions to these works, really shines in this music; rhythmic details are always clear, and every moment was full of energy.
The other works on the program were a little less distinctively played, but still brought pleasure. Weber's vigorously rendered "Invitation to the Dance" worked well with the similar demands of the Brahms Op. 39 Waltzes, and Feghali brought notable smoothness and polish to French music by Ravel and Debussy, making these composers' complex scores lucid and engaging.