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Latin American blend

MALCOLM MILLER applauds Alberto Portugheis in recital


The riveting rhythms of Latin American folk dances and songs by Alberto Ginastera, one of Argentina's most original twentieth century composers, transformed the Regent Hall, Oxford Street, in central London, into an invigorating oasis of vibrant colour and light, at an enthusiastically received lunchtime recital given by the distinguished pianist Alberto Portugheis.

Presented by the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe and the Iberian and Latin American Music Society on Friday 20 December 2002, the recital began with Rameau's Gavotte Variée followed by elegant, and expressive interpretations of Beethoven's Three 'Viennese' Sonatinas. There was especial crystalline articulation and beautifully supple phrasing in the second Sonatina in G, while the bristling momentum of the third sonata reminded one of the charming character of these miniatures, familiar to students yet often overlooked in recital.

The highlight of the concert was the inspirited performance of music by Alberto Ginastera, a composer with whom Portugheis, also from Argentina, has a particular affinity, having recorded the integral piano works on CD. In the Rondo on Argentine Folk Tunes Op 19, a transformation rather than transcription of authentic folk material, Ginastera's rich harmonies and range of pianistic sonorities are quite ravishing, with rapid repeated notes and chords, and evocative added note chromaticism that add lustre to the buoyant tunes. In Portugheis's hands the music overflowed with vitality, its myriad of colours, rhythmic lilt and syncopated energy radiating a Latin American blend of joy and longing.

Alberto Portugheis. Photo: Keith Bramich
Alberto Portugheis. Photo: Keith Bramich

His interpretations of the Danzas Argentinas Op 2 were equally dazzling, highlighting Ginastera's genius for assimilating folk influences into entirely original compositions. The 'Danza del Viejo Boyero' with its scintillating repeated chord passages, contrasted starkly with the slinky, sinewy tango-like melody of the 'Danza de la Moza Donos' which Alberto Portugheis injected with palpable emotion, its poignant cantabile melody suspended over a delicately-etched bass. The final 'Danza del Gaucho Matrero' evolved from inward stealth to bright ebullience, in the climatic restatements of the appealing main theme, an instance of Ginastera's subtle yet fully accessible style.

The concert concluded with the eloquent Chopin Nocturne in F sharp Op 15 No 2, with some breathtaking pianissimo colouring, and a powerful account of the Polonaise in A flat Op 53, which, like the fleet-fingered encore, Chopin's famous 'black-note study', displayed virtuosity and panache, qualities much in evidence in Portugheis's extensive discography. Long after the concert had ended, the wistful poetry and magnetic energy of Portugheis's Ginastera, in particular, lingered deliciously in the memory.

Copyright © 31 December 2002 Malcolm Miller, London, UK






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