The Moldovan pianist Alexander Paley has phenomenal technique, and he put together a program of music by Liszt and Weber that was calculated to show it off.
During recital at the Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ on Saturday, under the auspices of the Washington Conservatory of Music, his runs flew off the strings with crystal clarity. And his ornamental pirouettes were shapely and even; he nailed every one of them in a program that featured what was perhaps a record for the number of notes per second.
That the audience rose and cheered at the end was no surprise. Paley put on an impressive display of skill and concentration. But as an occasion for thoughtful music-making, the concert was a missed opportunity.
Sure, a Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody played with a heavy touch and an explosive conclusion may be fine as the rousing end of an otherwise more nuanced program, but a whole evening of such breathlessly loud playing left me far more impressed with Paley’s interest in playing the music than with his interest in the music itself.
Paley exhibited a light touch and let some air into the lines in each of the three Liszt Rhapsodies — a most welcome respite. Clearly, he has it in him to play delicately and thoughtfully.It’s just too bad that he didn’t want to more often.