Russian pianist provides mixed rewards at Mainly Mozart Festival

By Lawrence Budmen

Dmitri Levkovich performed Sunday at the Mainly Mozart Festival in Coral Gables.

Dmitri Levkovich performed Sunday at the Mainly Mozart Festival in Coral Gables.

The Mainly Mozart Festival has entered its third decade as South Florida’s late spring Sunday tribute to the master from Salzburg. With new management under the auspices of the Miami Chamber Music Society led by pianist Marina Radiushina and attorney Mike Eidson, the series has expanded programming, experimenting with film and dance as well as diversifying the concert formats.

Sunday’s Memorial Day weekend program brought the debut of pianist Dmitri Levkovich in a rare solo recital on the festival’s docket without a note of Mozart to be heard.

The festival has performed in several Coral Gables locations over the years. Its latest venue is the venerable Biltmore Hotel where this year’s concerts are taking place in various ballroom and conference spaces.

Levkovich’s performance was in the Danielson Gallery, an intimate room with an over-reverberant acoustic. While string players can adapt to this kind of ambience, it is not a good fit for the percussive keyboard. That Levkovich managed to bring considerable dynamic variety and nuance to his playing in this environment was no small feat.

The music of Rachmaninoff fits Levkovich’s steel-fingered technique and romantic temperament like a glove and the first half of the program devoted to Rachmaninoff preludes was his forte. His slower approach to the opening bars of the Prelude in C-sharp minor managed to infuse this familiar work with surprises from the whirl of notes in the middle section to the unusually spaced and measured conclusion.

Ten Preludes, Op. 23 demonstrated Levkovich’s affinity for Rachmaninoff’s moody vignettes and his considerable technical arsenal. The right hand figurations of Prelude No. 2 were especially clean and precise while the bass line rumbling below the melody of the third prelude came through emphatically. Complex hand crossings in the E-flat Major prelude (no. 6) were astutely managed without breaking the musical line and Levkovich built the big crescendo in gradual layers up to the overpowering final chords. The high point of Levkovich’s traversal came in the evocative  preludes 4 and 10 in which he brought out the lyrical melodies with a lighter touch and  more varied dynamics.

The remainder of the program offered mixed rewards. Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23 (Appassionata) was a misfire, Levkovich exaggerating soft and loud sections in a first movement so devoid of pulse as to seem interminable. Levkovich’s funereal tempo for the second movement seemed more Lento than Beethoven’s Andante con moto marking and the finale was frenzied.

Chopin’s Andante Spianato was nicely spun and Levkovich avoided the temptation to slow down at the appearance a new melody in the coda. His penchant for speed was displayed in the Grand Polonaise Brillante but there was some untidy playing along the way.

Scarlatti’s Sonata in D minor, K. 213 is surprisingly melancholic and highly effective on the modern keyboard. Levkovich’s unaffected perusal brought his quietest and most beautiful playing of the afternoon. An abridged solo piano version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue mixed the jazzy, virtuosic and rhapsodic elements effectively.  Levkovich played a finely detailed version Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G-sharp minor as an encore.

The Mainly Mozart Festival continues  with the Amernet String Quartet playing works by Mozart, Webern and Dvorak 4 p.m. June 1 at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.; 786-556-1715.

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Mon May 26, 2014
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