Nibya Marino

At 85, Uruguayan pianist Nibya Marino imbues every note with meaning. The polish, elegance and expressivity of her playing reflect a lifetime of performance experience as well as the early teaching of the great French pianist Alfred Cortot. Though retired, Marino gave a rare concert Sunday evening at the French Embassy, performing romantic masterworks with unalloyed grandeur and poetry.

She brought out the songful innocence of Robert Schumann's "Arabesque," Op. 18, and "Scenes From Childhood," Op. 15. Bass figuration caressed the climbing higher melodies, which emphasized the inner dialogue among the musical voices. With close attention to detail, she infused each piece with a rhythmic verve, maintaining a strong conception of the work throughout shifting moods.

After a fleet yet rich account of Mendelssohn's "Variations Serieuses," Op. 54, Marino brought a shimmering power to several works of Chopin. The force of the Polish composer's mazurkas came from smart tempos, careful articulation and steady intonation; the music's luminous and ever-transforming textures emerged without hyperbolic grand style. Through her knowledge and experience, Marino has learned to communicate with a sublime directness and artistry.

-- Daniel Ginsberg

Jeffrey Siegel

For more than 20 years, New York-based pianist Jeffrey Siegel has offered his "Keyboard Conversations" -- a series of lecture-performances -- in cities across the country. Sunday evening at George Mason University's Center for the Arts, the pianist presented "The Passion and Poetry of Chopin," during which it became clear he had prepared himself well for the commentary portion but had crammed for the performance.

Seven compositions, each representing a genre of Chopin's oeuvre, received knowledgeable introductions before Siegel sat down to demonstrate specific elements of each piece. For example, he played the five-note melody of the Impromptu in A-flat, Op. 29, and then showed how Chopin embellished that same figure numerous times. And his analysis of the Polonaise in F-sharp Minor, Op. 44, particularly what he called the "drum and bugle" section, was insightful and poetically interpreted, both in words and in music.

After dissecting a work, Siegel performed it in its entirety. Finger flubs, unpolished dynamics and sloppiness, especially in pyrotechnic chordal passages, marred otherwise heartfelt performances.

Though spirited, the Waltz in A-flat, Op. 34, No. 1, was subprime. But Siegel displayed nearly flawless virtuosity in the Berceuse, Op. 57, with delicate hand-bell tones and filigree flourishes. Trickling passages sparkled in the Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 39. Siegel also treated listeners to the rarely performed Tarantella in A-flat, Op. 43.

-- Grace Jean