What does it take for a young performer to distinguish himself in the world of classical music? One way is to win a competition, which Andrew Tyson did by taking first prize in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 2011. The victory resulted in a debut solo recital Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.
If it was not a head-turning accomplishment, the North Carolina-born pianist showed admirable promise.
A Mozart sonata, No. 15 in F major, K. 533/494, was graceful and fluid, with a manipulation of tempo that kept the listener guessing. Tyson had a regrettable tendency toward preciousness, over-applying the sustaining pedal for murky effects in the second movement and allowing the third movement’s ultra-refinement to tilt toward mannerism.
The exaggerated sense of controlled sound was released in Scriabin’s Sonata No. 3 in F-sharp minor, Op. 23, a performance that exploded as much as the overwrought program suggested by the composer, concerning the losing struggle of a wild soul toward freedom.
Tyson’s Bach, Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, BWV 825, was bright and perky, the sustaining pedal used generously but not in a way that blurred the music. He brought out many inner voices, even lengthening some notes to add a sort of counter-melody not in the score.
The second half of Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 28, was intended as a parting show of virtuosic prowess: Tyson was a semifinalist at the 2010 Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Some of the fast preludes were impressively agitated, although the melody in No. 19 was a little clunky. When drawing out a melody over a complicated texture, Tyson tended either to club it senseless or let it vanish, one example of the sort of nuance still missing from his playing.
Downey is a freelance writer.