Rodriguez falls ill, Tao Lin saves the day at Festival Miami

By David Fleshler

Pianist Tao Lin replaced Santiago Rodriguez on just a few hours' notice Friday night at Festival Miami

It was a night of drama at Festival Miami, as the pianist for Friday’s concert wound up being hospitalized just hours before the event, and organizers had to quickly come up with a replacement.

Santiago Rodriguez, a member of the University of Miami’s piano faculty, was to play a recital of Mozart, Schumann and Rachmaninoff at Gusman Hall. But after the lights had dimmed, Shelton Berg, dean of the Frost School of Music, came on stage and said, “I have some very, very sad news. Santiago Rodriguez is very ill. His wife took him to the hospital. I think it’s probably just a very bad flu.”

But, the dean said, the show would go on. The pianist Tao Lin, who was present as an audience member, would perform instead. The Rodriguez recital would be rescheduled, with everyone in the audience given a free ticket.

Lin, a faculty member of Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music, is a well-known South Florida musician, with many recital and chamber performances in the area. He came on stage to an unusually long and loud round of applause for someone who had not yet played a note. “Good evening, surprise, surprise,” he said. “Thank you for staying.”

Under the circumstances, he would have been forgiven for offering a short program just to give the audience something instead of nothing. But he played a full-length, all-Chopin recital with several substantial works, including the Ballade No. 1, Ballade No. 4, Barcarolle, Nocturne Op. 55 No. 2, four last Mazurkas and Sonata No. 3.

Given the rushed nature of Lin’s appearance on stage, it would have been too much to expect a completely polished recital, which this was not. But it was clear why he devoted the recital to Chopin, for he has a real feel for the composer’s style, and his performance had an authenticity that compensated in large part for any technical imperfections.

In the Ballade No. 1, Lin’s natural lyricism made the quiet central section sing, and he brought real grandeur to the forte statement of the theme, with a rapid coda that was a whirl of fearless passionate virtuosity. In the Ballade No. 4 he brought out the rising tension of the work from its quiet opening, playing the melodies with a wistful melancholy, and assaying the work’s heroic and tragic qualities as his hands ran up and down the keyboard in sweeping chords and arpeggios.

Using Robert Schumann’s famous description of Chopin’s music as “cannons buried in flowers,” many performers have been characterized as emphasizing one over the other. In Lin’s case it was clearly the flowers, despite his way with the heroic sections of the ballades. His performance of the mazurkas, for example, favored a more vocal approach, without the marked style that would have brought out the characteristic Polish rhythm. And in the Nocturne, his rubato — the little accelerations and decelerations that aren’t on the printed page — brought out the hidden tensions in the melodies.

The last work on the program was the Sonata No. 3. He played the first movement with great force and dignity, never over-personalizing the music in a way that would allow it to lose shape. Possibly due to the lack of a printed program, which would have shown the work has four movements, several eager members of the audience interrupted with applause every time the pianist reached a cadence. At the end, Lin received a well-deserved standing ovation for his fearless, last-minute performance.

In an interview at intermission, the dean said he heard at about 2 p.m. that Rodriguez was ill but still hoped to play the recital; by 4 p.m., the pianist’s wife was taking him to the hospital. Berg said he had considered cobbling together a recital from some pianists at the university, including himself, but then heard that Lin was planning to attend the recital. The dean said he expects an update today on Rodriguez’s condition.

Festival Miami continues tonight at 8 p.m. with Sizzling Hot Swing, featuring the jazz violinist Mark O’Connor. The next classical event is Sunday at 8 p.m., with a joint performance by the Bergonzi String Quartet and the Stamps String Quartet in quartets of Haydn, Bartok and Debussy, as well as shorter works. Call 305-284-4940 or go to

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Sat Oct 16, 2010
at 12:55 pm
No Comments