“The Romantic Spectrum” is this year's theme of the Miami International Piano Festival’s Master Series at the Broward Center. In his life and music, Frederic Chopin epitomized the romantic spirit and, appropriately, Pietro De Maria opened the three-concert event Sunday afternoon with an all-Chopin recital. The pianist’s Italianate sense of lyrical song matched Chopin’s passionate melodies winningly.
The opening Ballade No. 1 in G minor was introspective, but De Maria’s understated approach did not lack strength, the octaves clean and rapid passages incisive. Utilizing the pedals astutely, De Maria extended the dynamic and color range of the Nocturne No. 2 in D-flat Major, the principal melody exquisitely sung in bel canto manner. The Tarantella in A-flat Major is rarely played because the speed and fingering are considered too difficult. De Maria whirled through the vignette, bringing special clarity to the complex writing for the left hand.
The Barcarolle in F-sharp minor is one of Chopin’s most beautiful creations, and De Maria's big-boned account gave equal weight to the swaying figurations and rhythmic energy of the big climaxes. Trills were finely etched and minute gradations of tonal color and volume infused the rolling lines with heft and character.
The opening chords of the Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Major suggested a Lisztian sense of the macabre. In a high-contrast reading, thunderous pianistic volleys and delicate soft moments lead to a fiery conclusion, as De Maria traced the fistfuls of notes in a whirling blur.
Three Mazurkas mixed vigor and charm, De Maria’s rubato wonderfully capturing the pulse of the dance that infuses these miniatures.
From the stormy, rumbling bass at the opening of the Sonata No. 3 in B minor, De Maria offered a dramatic reading, replete with grand romantic gestures and emotional turmoil. A fleet Scherzo danced from the keys with feathery lightness but the Largo was the heart of the performance. With a free sense of rhythm and phrasing, De Maria seemed to be almost improvising the music. While the initial statement of the theme in the Presto finale was restrained, the performance gradually gathered intensity to a crescendo of cascading power and velocity.
De Maria offered three encores after repeated curtain calls from the large, cheering audience at the Amaturo Theater. Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp minor was ruminative and contemplative, the runs distinct and precise. De Maria negotiated the rapid arpeggiated strophes of Liszt’s La Campanella breezily. A supple keyboard version of the Sicilienne from Bach’s Flute Sonata No. 2 concluded the afternoon on a serene note.
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