Pianist Kudo’s gift in Chopin clear, even with technical lapses

By David Fleshler

Naomi Kudo performed a Chopin program Sunday presented by the Miami Civic Music Association.

Naomi Kudo last appeared in Miami in February at the Eighth National Chopin Piano Competition, where the young American pianist’s dramatic and eloquent rendering of Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 took the award for best concerto performance.

Kudo, a 22-year-old Juilliard graduate, returned Sunday for a recital at Gusman Hall, presented by the Miami Civic Music Association, where she performed a program entirely devoted to the Polish pianist’s works. Although she suffered a few technical lapses, the gifts she displayed in the competition were evident here, in particular her natural ease with Chopin’s melodies.

In the Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, her gentle but assured touch at the keyboard, along with a relaxed, unaffected rubato, allowed the melodies to breathe without losing shape. After that her fingers turned to steel for a clicking, assertive account of the work’s fiery middle.  She brought a similar melodic sensibility to the Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat Major, and to the gentle dissonances of the Berceuse in D-flat Major.

Her right hand accounted for a few more wrong notes than is heard in the average recital, possibly due to her fast tempos. She hit some glitches in the Polonaise in A-flat Major, known as the Heroic, but her performance was a risky, aggressive one that delivered enough drama to outweigh a few clinkers. And her playing of the famous main theme grew in nobility and power with each restatement.

The second half opened with the Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor. In the first movement she took a quicker pace than she seemed able to handle technically, her rushed, hectic playing allowing the melodic thread to become lost in the blur of notes. But her finesse with Chopin’s singing melodies returned in the Marche funèbre, especially in the major-key middle section.

In her performance of the Ballade No. 4 in F Minor, which concluded the written program, she played Chopin’s wistful, melancholy melodies in too matter-of-fact a manner, finding little of the poetry in the music. But her performance of the dramatic middle and ending sections, with their fortissimo chords and sweeping arpeggios, was an electrifying account that brought a standing ovation from the sparse but enthusiastic audience.

As an encore, she played a predictably fast, technically immaculate Minute Waltz.

Posted in Performances

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Mon Jun 14, 2010
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