Sunday 15 December 2019

Review: Artur Pizarro in National Concert Hall, Dublin

Artur Pizarro
Artur Pizarro

Pat O'Kelly

PORTUGUESE virtuoso Artur Pizarro is here this week as part of the 2nd Dublin International Piano Festival.

As well as conducting a series of master classes, Pizarro is also part of the Festival's public recital programme and comes with a mix of Rachmaninov's Op 32 Preludes and Books 3 and 4 of Albéniz' suite 'Iberia'.

Both composers were exceptional pianists and their music reflects their phenomenal techniques. Interesting, too, that despite their different ethnic backgrounds their music can, at times, sound relatively comparable and I wonder if one could have been influenced by the other. The Rachmaninov Preludes date from 1910, with Iberia occupying Albéniz between 1906 and '08.

In the event, I am doubtful about Pizarro choosing to juxtapose the composers in the same recital as, despite their distinctiveness and their similarities, in the heel of the hunt I am left with something akin to musical indigestion.

If I expected Pizarro to show a certain penchant for Albéniz, I much prefer his playing of the Russian master than that of his near compatriot. I am a little surprised to find his interpretation of 'Iberia' somewhat mundane.

Maybe having put so much energetic emphasis into the Rachmaninov Preludes, Pizarro finds less éclat when it comes to his neighbouring composer. In the Rachmaninov, Pizarro produces good solid sound that can be genuinely weighty but never harsh.

The assurance of his technique means all the richness of Rachmaninov's canvas comes in great washes of sound. Maybe some of the contours become a little blurred from time to time but Pizarro's playing has tremendous sweep and bravura.

And there are also moments of refined delicacy, especially in the B flat minor 2nd Prelude with its gentle tintinnabulations and tinges of Mussorgsky. Temperate rivulets can flow as easily as cascading torrents.

Pizarro builds Rachmaninov's climaxes particularly well where a powerful bass ensures a positive structure above. Some of these Preludes can be introspective while others are more extravagantly extroverted and, in the main, Maestro Pizarro catches these disparate elements excellently.

With its evocations of local colour, 'Iberia' is meant to be more essentially pictorial than Rachmaninov's abstract essays. However, I find Pizarro's somehow brusque approach to 'Málaga' losing a lot of this music's vibrancy and while 'atmosphere' is created in Madrid's 'Lavapies' quarter, the Seville tavern 'Eritaña' sounds slightly less than a centre of action.

Irish Independent

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