Young Israeli makes impressive debut at Miami Piano Festival

By Lawrence Budmen

Ariel Lanyi performed Sunday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.

Ariel Lanyi performed Sunday at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.

Some artists select safe programs for debut recitals but the 21-year-old Israeli pianist Ariel Lanyi opted for more daring choices in his South Florida bow Sunday night at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach, presented by the Miami International Piano Festival. Masterworks by Haydn and Beethoven were coupled with Schumann’s rarely played Sonata in F-sharp minor. The Schumann is a technical minefield and a difficult work to bring off, challenging both the pianist’s command of the instrument and interpretive powers.

The youthful Lanyi is an unassuming presence at the keyboard. After quickly bowing to the audience’s welcoming applause, he immediately launched into Haydn’s Sonata in C minor. Even in scores written in a minor key, Haydn must sparkle and there was ample lightness and vigor in Lanyi’s touch. That was matched by freewheeling impulses that never became wayward with sudden emphasis of phrase and accelerations always kept within tasteful musical bounds. Lanyi captured the swaying rhythm of the Andante con moto while maintaining the long flow of the musical line. He injected a hint of passion into the chiseled classical strokes of the final Allegro and the quirky Haydnesque twists were deftly traced.

Beethoven’s Sonata No. 17 in D minor (“Tempest”), Op. 31, no. 2 marked a new maturity in the master from Bonn’s keyboard scores. Exhibiting strong and solid technical command, Lanyi articulated that extraordinary rolling chord and let loose in the Allegro section like a storm unleashed. In the contrasting spheres of the Adagio, his playing alternated between thrusting power and elegant Mozartean grace, aided by finely varied dynamics and a deliberate pace. Still Lanyi captured that sense of unease in the underlying pulse that flows distinctively in Beethoven’s voice with just the right weight and depth. The Allegretto finale was assayed with speed and precision.

The Schumann sonata is unusually austere and intricate. Written in 1835 and dedicated to his beloved Clara Wieck, this work is youthful Schumann and Lanyi brought the spirit of a young artist to his high-voltage performance. From the opening chords, he displayed a fuller, richer tonal sonority as befits the music’s romantic ethos. The nearly constant hand crossings in the first movement were astutely gauged at a fleet clip. Lanyi fully projected Schumann’s bipolar musical personality in mood swings from exhilaration to despair that pulsate through the fantasia-like pages. At a spacious tempo, Lanyi brought out the Aria’s longing and ardor (in Schumann’s case for Clara) with pliant sensitivity. He managed to infuse the slightly off-kilter dance of the Scherzo with the right combination of devilish fervor and robust intensity.

The Allegro un poco maestoso finale’s theme is similar to the principal melody in the final movement of Schumann’s Fantasie, composed one year later. Almost symphonic in sheer sonority, this movement suggests heroic struggle, both within Schumann’s divergent musical temperament and the demands on the pianist. Lanyi met the score’s formidable challenges on their own terms. He gave ample space to the moments of songlike calm while never resorting to pounding bombast for effect. The coda resounded triumphantly, capping an impressive performance of a fascinating and difficult work.

Repeated curtain calls brought Lanyi back for a brisk ride through Mozart’s Rondo in D Major. Played with idiomatic flair, each note was perfectly placed while the ornamented melodic strains were given wit and brio. Lanyi displayed impressive musicality throughout the recital. It will be interesting to watch this young pianist as he matures artistically.

The Miami International Piano Festival presents Justin Lieber playing Bartok’s Out of Doors, Bach’s Partita No. 2, Fauré’s Preludes and Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188 Street in Aventura.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Young Israeli makes impressive debut at Miami Piano Festival”

  1. Posted Jan 14, 2019 at 4:22 pm by Frank Cooper

    This review captures the spirit and its affect of Ariel Lanyi’s astonishing command of an apparently severe example of programming, one which proved to be totally captivating!

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Mon Jan 14, 2019
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