Santiago Rodriguez’s memorable recital worth waiting for

By Lawrence Budmen

Santiago Rodriguez

Pianist Santiago Rodriguez provided a triumphant postlude to Festival Miami Sunday afternoon at Gusman Concert Hall with a program that mixed pianistic chestnuts of Mozart, Schumann and Rachmaninoff with Latin-infused miniatures. The newest member of the Frost School of Music keyboard faculty, Rodriguez had originally been scheduled to perform his recital on October 15 but was taken ill with serious flu symptoms. His performance was definitely well worth waiting for and was cheered by a small but enthusiastic audience.

Rodriguez is a pianist of impeccable technique and refined artistic sensibilities. Every note is perfectly placed, his precision and attention to detail everywhere apparent. That technical acumen is wedded to deeply perceptive artistic instincts that project a score’s undertones as well as flashy exterior. Rodriguez sailed through the opening Allegro moderato of Mozart’s Sonata in C Major, K.330 in an engagingly light, breezy manner. His understated reading of the  Andante cantabile did not short change the emotive power of the music’s minor-key modulations, Mozart’s tragic subtext. Eschewing the powdered-wigged stiffness of more mundane artists, Rodriguez approached the finale as a pure bravura vehicle, ringing down the curtain on this pianistic opera with verve and high style.

Rodriguez served up a vision of Schumann’s Carnaval that was large in scale, always sensitive to the composer’s mood swings rather than the light-hearted romp that many pianists take through this score. In his introductory remarks, Rodriguez commented that Carnaval was perfect for Halloween and, indeed, the macabre is never far from Schumann’s fractured, interrupted waltz melodies. Avoiding the temptation to overpedal, the pianist  brought incisiveness to every bar. At times Rodriguez played at breathless speeds but Schumann’s lyrical interludes were rendered with singing line in the best pianistic bel canto manner. The charm and elasticity of the Chopin movement was beguiling while the frenzied darkness of the dance that interrupts the final march was taken at tempestuous full throttle. Rodriguez’s Carnaval was romantic in the grandest sense, a melding of elegance and emotional turmoil that was quintessentially Schumann.

Acclaimed for his recorded traversal of Rachmaninoff’s piano oeuvre, Rodriguez offered a stellar reading of three of that master’s Preludes, Op.23. The poetry of two rhapsodic evocations was in sharp contrast to the virtuosic ferocity of the G minor Alla Marcia, rendered with big boned velocity and fierce energy. For all of its power and sweep, Rodriguez’s reading of the Preludes was distinguished by a plethora of finely gauged dynamic contrasts and gorgeous tonal colors, faithful to the music’s deep Russian romanticism.

In place of the originally scheduled Rachmaninoff Sonata No. 2, Rodriguez offered a series of short pieces in tribute to his Latin roots. Three evocations of Spain and Andalusia by Manuel de Falla, Enrique Granados and Ernesto Lecuona offered pearly-toned sensitivity and languor in irresistible profusion. Rodriguez dedicated the de Falla piece to his late student Rodolfo Brito and the Granados vignette to Judge Judith Kreeger, wife of Miami impresario Julian Kreeger.

In tribute to pianist Ivan Davis, a former Frost faculty member, Rodriguez offered one of German-born composer Moritz Moszkowski’s Spanish rhapsodies in a brilliant display of supple dexterity, the spacious central section projected with warmth and depth of feeling. The pianist pulled out all the stops for two of Alberto Ginastera’s Danzas Argentinas; the first a meditative reverie encased in a technicolor cyclorama of glowing tone, the second an unhinged Latin dance gazed through a maze of dissonance in the manner of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre de Printemps. In a score that seemingly requires two pairs of hands, Rodriguez demonstrated speed and agility worthy of Vladimir Horowitz.

Rodriguez was joined by Frost School of Music Dean Shelton Berg for a four hand version of Rachmaninoff’s Italian Polka, a final musical sweet that danced off the keyboard with panache. An impressive recitalist and formidable pianist, Rodriguez is a major addition to the Frost faculty.

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Mon Nov 1, 2010
at 12:13 pm
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