Bracing technique and national flavor converge in Dacic’s romantic program for Miami Piano Festival

By Nevena Stanić Kovačević

Misha Dacic performed a recital for the Miami International Piano Festival Sunday at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center.

Best known for his interpretations of Liszt, Misha Dacić remained true to romantic repertoire in his performance on Sunday at the Miami International Piano Festival, the institution that introduced him to American audiences in 2003. 

The Serbian pianist displayed spectacular virtuosity in an extensive program for a near-capacity festival crowd that welcomed him to the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center. After musicologist Frank Cooper’s introductory remarks on romanticism and nationalism, Dacić’s quiet entrance set the mood for a movie-like experience of romantic piano works, complete with live video of the performer’s hands projected on the stage wall.

The nostalgic notes of the Elegie and the Melodie from Rachmaninoff’s 1892 Morceaux de fantaisie guided the audience into a state of romantic contemplation that sharpened focus on the subtlest of early Rachmaninoff’s sounds. With hand positions similar to the pianist Vladimir Horowitz, Dacić’s low wrists and flatly stretched fingers produced enticing legato, thick forte, and powerfully warm accents.

Dacić’s magical echoing, farther up the keyboard, of the low melody that appears in the middle of the Elegie underlined the piece’s soulful character and led to a passionate concluding forte. The gradual building of intense and effective crescendos continued into the Melodie. The arrangement of the song that followed, “In the Silent Night,” from Six Romances, was delivered with fine contrapuntal dialogs and avid culminations. 

Like Bach’s preludes and fugues, Rachmaninoff’s 24 preludes in major and minor keys are keyboard milestones. Dacić skillfully interpreted three lively preludes (Op. 23 No. 8, and Op. 32 No. 6 and No. 8) almost in a single breath. His lyrical and energetic interpretation continued in the two Etudes-Tableau that followed (Op. 33 No. 5 and Op. 39 No. 7). 

Tempo and virtuosity converged effectively in the Etude No. 5, also known as “The Snow Storm” — Dacić’s fingers dancing across the keyboard deftly without sacrificing thunder-like strength in presto. Wrapping up the Rachmaninoff both chronologically and in character, from elegy to humor, he delivered a playful revised version of Humoresque Op. 10 No. 5 from 1940.

The Russian portion of the evening ended in a similar vein with Rachmaninoff’s contemporary Nikolai Medtner and the first of his 38 Fairy Tales, Op. 51. In a playful and rhythmical yet dreamy skazka, Dacić’s musicianship narrated tales of cryptic and vigilant characters in a world depicted with warm bass lines and brilliant melodies.

Schumann’s seven Humoreske brought the flavor of romantic Lieder, character pieces, and the composer’s symphonic sound into the second part of the concert. Each humoresque has a title: Simple; Hastily; Simple and delicate; Heartfelt; Very lively; With some pomp; and To the resolution. Carefully tending to their titles and characters, the pianist successfully presented all the hidden melodies of Schumann’s typically dense sound. Using a specific timbre in places to convey symphonic fullness, Dacić reflected the influences of his mentor, Kemal Gekić, to whom he dedicated this concert.

Atop the challenges of the previous pieces, Dacić also performed five Chopin mazurkas (Op. 6 No. 1 and NO. 2, Op. 24 No. 4, Op. 41 No. 1, and Op. 63 No. 1). Inspired by traditional Polish folk dance, Chopin’s works do not lack for delicate emotional melodies. In an attempt to convey their contrapuntal intricacies and meanings, Dacić often accentuated first and second beats, thus disregarding mazurka’s origins as dance music. But it was his right to do so, and he presented his interpretation with virtuosity, and with a distinctive approach to a staple of piano repertoire. 

Romanticism’s nationalistic elements were revealed through the Balkan rhythms and tunes of George Enescu’s Rhapsodie Roumaine. Enescu’s two orchestral rhapsodies belong to the realm of universally recognized Romanian romantic works. The piano transcription consists of both simple melodies and full symphonic sonorities with multiple melodic layers. In this splicing of Romanian dances and songs, Dacić braided counterpoint with his empirical understanding of Balkan tunes, rhythms, and musical characters. Even in the thickest texture, Dacić convincingly presented the strong sonorities. 

Although the intimacy of the recital was occasionally disturbed by the video projection, the real-time display of Dacić’s virtuosity paid off in the Enescu. The unprecedented speed of Dacić’s left-hand leaps created a symphonic rush, and the sight of this agility magnified on the wall elicited awe and breathless ovations.

Nonetheless, Dacić’s calm and almost ascetic appearance was reflected in his placid body language. He conveyed the subtlest pianissimos and the widest fortissimos, in both slow and presto passages, without virtually no physical movement above the wrists, for a fascinating display of technique, strength and musical intent.

The Miami International Piano Festival continues with Daniel Lebhardt 7:30 p.m. February 23.

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Mon Feb 17, 2020
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