Rodriguez brings fire and dedication to wide-ranging program

By Lawrence Budmen

Santiago Rodriguez

Music of Spain and Cuba shared the program with scores by two Frost School of Music faculty members and pianistic evergreens by Chopin and Rachmaninoff as pianist Santiago Rodriguez played an impressive recital for Festival Miami Friday night. A well-traveled virtuoso, multiple competition winner and member of the Frost keyboard faculty, Rodriguez drew a large and highly appreciative audience to the University of Miami Gusman Concert Hall.

In highly personable commentary throughout the concert, Rodriguez related that he has been ill recently and he freely altered the program’s order and selections. Opening with the unscheduled Spanish Dance No. 5 (Andaluza) by Granados, Rodriguez immediately established his affinity for Latin rhythms, color and nostalgic sentiment. He brought a touch of the Chopin salon to the Andalusian hues of Albeniz’s Mallorca.

Rodriguez combines the steel-fingered power of the Russian school of pianism with a classical sense of elegance. Marina by Thomas Sleeper tested his technical arsenal. Based on a dramatic poem by T.S. Elliot, Sleeper has crafted a knuckle-busting modernist tone poem that could be a terrific competition piece. The repeated soft tolling of bells runs throughout this contemporary update of pianistic romanticism. Rodriguez’s performance was an awesome displayed of beautifully modulated, wide-ranging dynamics and intense concentration.

Variations by J.B. Floyd is an appealing set of vignettes based on a chord progression rather than a theme or melody. Blues, boogie-woogie, arpeggiated flights and adventurous visits to the limits of tonality mark Floyd’s skillfully cooked musical stew, brought vividly to life by Rodriguez.

Rodriguez’s idiosyncratic reading of Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor was a take-no-prisoners display of bravura. The famous funeral march was measured, the long melodic threads never flagging. Demonic Lisztian wizardry engulfed the Scherzo. The outer movements were vast in scale, the fortes ringing through the hall with fierce velocity. Despite seemingly impossibly fast tempos, the performance was a marvel of accuracy and solid articulation.

Rodriguez only felt up to playing the final Allegro molto of Rachmaninoff’s Sonata No. 2 in B minor but, far from faltering, he gave a red-blooded performance. Rodriguez’s hands swept across the keyboard in an almost frenzied state to exciting effect.

The music of Cuban-born Rene Touzet and Ernesto Lecuona is mother’s milk for Miami audiences and Rodriguez’s highly personal take on his artistic heritage did not disappoint. There was lightness and grace in two Touzet dances. Delightful rhythmic lift sprung Lecuona’s Andalucia and the final Malaguena fired on all cylinders.



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Sat Oct 13, 2012
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