Piano Sonata in F, K533
Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op.24
Francesco Piemontesi (piano)
Reviewed by: David M. Rice
Reviewed: 22 August, 2013
Venue: Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, Lincoln Center, New York City
Following the Handel concert earlier in the evening (reviewed separately, link below), its spirit carried into the hour-long “A Little Night Music” recital (the final one this season) in the Kaplan Playhouse, Francesco Piemontesi playing Mozart and then Brahms’s Handel Variations. The Swiss-Italian pianist began with a sensitive reading of Mozart’s Sonata in F (K533). In the contrapuntal opening Allegro he maintained a finely balanced dialogue between voices, playing trills and runs with a delicate touch. He effectively drew contrasts between the sunny atmosphere of the outer movements and the darker tones of the chromatic and frequently dissonant Andante.
Brahms packs a wide range of emotions and moods into his 25 Variations on the ‘Air’ from Handel’s Harpsichord Suite in B flat (HWV434). Piemontesi brought out the full gamut, with tempos and rhythms varying from achingly slow and gliding to dazzlingly fast and rollicking. Highlights included the contrary motion of Variation VI and the folk-like spirit in the subsequent commentary, the mordent-rich XIX, the music-box aura of XXII, and the glorious XXV that leads into the rousing, monumental Fugue. Piemontesi then offered a dreamy encore appropriate to the late hour: the Andante from Schubert’s A major Sonata (D664).