Benjamin Moser’s noontime début recital provided a detailed look at the young pianist’s “work-in-progress” status.
He already brings the vital ability of being able to draw in an audience of varying ages to repertoire that is universally familiar (the pair of Chopin Waltzes that began the closing set brought smiles all around and just needed more consistent ring in their respective “B” sections to move up from delightful to delectable) and—for many—the more esoteric masterpieces from Debussy (Estampes) and Ravel (Gaspard de la Nuit).
With thousands of notes to traverse employing virtually everything on the keyboard (magically “wiping” the keys with liquid tone in “Ondine”), Moser’s attention never wavered when the inevitable miss-hits momentarily jarred the ear, letting them vanish from the canvas like uninvited guests at a family gathering who never got past the door.
Seeing the complete structure paid huge dividends along the entire journey of Estampes. “Pagodes” was ever-so gently laid out with many memorable pages of supple, always moving forward lines and accompaniments. “Soirée dans Grenade” was a model of control followed by a deceptive ease-of-delivery in “Jardins sous La Plouie” that featured beguiling, child-like simplicity when required in the statements.
Especially effective in both conception and presentation was the mid-range single-tone pedal that rightly provided “Le Gibet” with the requisite hypnotic effect which, along with the closing, tolling bell, made this movement the highlight of Gaspard.
The A-flat Major Polonaise-Fantasie was also planned to ensure that the music grew organically rather than section by section. After the flurry of trills signalled yet another change of place, Moser’s reading became more personal, beautifully at one with the swirl of emotions that are at the root of every phrase.
Once this accomplished pianist finds the key of consistency in the upper-register, melodic apexes (the A-Flat Major Étude seemed oddly routine after the considerable artistry displayed in the preceding Polonaise), the music will reach a higher plane still: one that will, undoubtedly, be found. JWR