Pianist Giltburg proves most in synch with the 20th century

By David Fleshler

Judging from his recital Sunday in Coral Gables, the young Russian-Israeli pianist Boris Giltburg is a competent interpreter of Beethoven and a fine one of Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev.

Giltburg, 25, was born in Moscow, grew up in Tel Aviv, and has appeared before in South Florida at the Miami International Piano Festival. He performed at the University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall as part of the Sunday Afternoons of Music series.

Like many piano recitals, this one followed chronological order, and as the music became more recent, the playing became better. He opened with one of Beethoven’s best-known keyboard works, the Sonata in F Minor, known as the Appassionata. While technically competent, the performance felt episodic and disengaged. Rapid passagework sounded blurry, possibly through excessive pedaling, and lacked bite and intensity, even with Giltburg’s hard touch.

His performance of Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 48 No. 1 in C Minor was on a much higher level, stately and with a dignity that’s absent from dreamier, more impressionistic interpretations.

The pianist’s performance of Chopin’s Ballade in F Minor brought out the long lines in a way that was absent from the Beethoven, but this is one of Chopin’s most emotionally intense works and Giltburg’s interpretation was restrained  and unsatisfying for such a passionate piece of music.

In the second half of the concert, Giltburg performed music that seemed more congenial to him, even though on paper these were more difficult works.

He played three Etudes-Tableaux of Rachmaninoff (Op. 39 No. 3 and 9, and Op. 33 No. 3). Where he seemed rigid and disengaged in the Beethoven, here he leaned in toward the keyboard and drew from it a broad palette of colors. In Op. 39 No. 9, his playing was lighter and brought the rippling notes to a powerful climax.

The final work on the program was Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 8, the last of the three War Sonatas, composed in the early 1940s. In this work, Giltburg played with the commitment and technical authority of an assured virtuoso. In the first movement, he used just enough rubato to bring out Prokofiev’s restrained lyricism, and in the fast pages, used a percussive tone that was never too harsh.  In the final movement, he brought all his power to Prokofiev’s bravura passages, bringing the work to a thunderous close.

Posted in Performances

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Mon Dec 14, 2009
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