Antonio Pompa-Baldi on Tri-C Classical Piano Series
By Daniel Hathaway
With his stylish elegance, easy virtuosity and impeccable taste, Antonio Pompa-Baldi held a large crowd in rapt attention on Sunday afternoon, January 29, throughout an imaginative recital that closed (all too early) the 2011-2012 Tri-C Classical Piano series. The performance in Gartner Auditorium of The Cleveland Museum of Art was co-sponsored by the Consulate of Italy in Detroit, who have recently collaborated with other local organizations in concerts featuring Italian natives (Cleveland Orchestra principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa and Ohio Philharmonic conductor Domenico Boyagian. The Tri-C series is also run by Italian-born Emanuela Friscioni, Pompa-Baldi's wife).
For the first half of his program, Pompa-Baldi chose works by two 19th century composers who were close to but overshadowed by Beethoven. Carl Czerny's Variations on a Theme by Rode, op. 22, “La Ricordanza” elaborated a lovely and already highly embellished tune which kept returning, rondo-like, between complicated flights of fantasy abounding in right-hand filigree. It's significant that the work of Czerny every pianist knows and loves to hate is The School of Velocity. Pompa-Baldi has obviously spent a lot of time between its pages. His touch was unhurried and exquisite and his fluency remarkable in a hall that felt distinctly chilly throughout the recital.
Johann Nepomuk Hummel's Sonata No. 5, op. 81 got off to a dramatic start with arresting octaves and portentous rumblings, complicated layerings and sudden harmonic plunges, but the composer resorted a bit too often to cheap pianistic tricks (too many gratuitous glissandos). After beginning like Mussorgsky's Gnomus, the second movement settled into a lyrical, Chopinesque dream with a remarkably unsettling cross relation or two. Hummel's finale was a non-stop flurry of notes bracketing a contrasting slow section. Pompa-Baldi 's committed performance made a good case for looking further into the Hummel catalog (the pianist has recorded some of the sonatas and others are in the works).
After intermission came another variation set: Rachmaninoff's Variations on a theme by Corelli, also known as La folia. A fascinating piece that alternates between ruminative deconstructions of the theme (really a bass line) and more straightforward variations, it ends surprisingly midway through a phrase. Pompa-Baldi was in complete command of the pace and arch of the work, finding the essential musical narrative and never succumbing to sheer pianism for its own sake.
The formal program ended with three works from Liszt's pilgrimage to Italy: Vallée d'Obermann, Au bord d'une source and Orage, which formed a neat and picturesque triptych. Obermann was appropriately dark and brooding, the spring babbled along merrily before turning into a torrent, and the storm was dramatic but well controlled: Pompa-Baldi dispatched cascades of octaves with accuracy and style.
The audience was obviously thrilled with the afternoon's performance and called for two encores. Pompa-Baldi offered more Liszt: a beautifully lyrical account of The bells of Geneva (accompanied by the unintended but not discordant voice of a ring tone of Cleveland), and an arrangement of a Schubert song, both as gorgeously played as the works that went before.
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On 1/31/12, marc888 wrote:
As a Liszt fan I was unhappy that, as usual, this great composer gets such short shrift from most reviewers.
You gave more to the rather unimportant Hummel work than ALL of the Liszt works on the program and did not even name the Schubert/Liszt encore (Evening in Vienna).
Liszt deserves better.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com January 31, 2012
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