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On 1 December 2002 Filippo Gamba, the Italian pianist, gave a sensitive and highly poetic recital of Schumann, Brahms and Beethoven. Filippo Gamba is the winner of the 2000 Geza Anda Competition, an event created as a memorial to the great Hungarian Mozart specialist, whose widow was present in the capacity audience. Anda's inspiration was evident in Gamba's searching accounts, exploring beneath the musical surface and highlighting beautiful inner counterpoints in all three works.

Particularly impressive were the two Romantic masterpieces, Schumann's delightful Arabesque Op 18 and Brahms's Op 116, pieces delicately hued and all maintained at low dynamic levels, yet always lucid in texture. Each repeat of the rondo theme in the Schumann was carefully varied, with supple phrasing, highlighting all the more the contrasting character of the central episode, with its impish gait. Both here and in the more dramatic textures of Brahms's Op 116 Gamba elicited a warm intimacy, through his poignant use of silences, and much expressive rubato. This was a wonderfully musical reading, responsive to the individual beauty of each piece as well as the unifying aspects, such as the third based motifs and harmonies. Highlights included the translucent fourth Intermezzo and the mysteriously chromatic fifth, hovering at piano or pianissimo levels throughout. Gamba emphasised the often unexpected bursts of energy and always brought the themes out with noble warmth, as in the second and sixth piece, while the more frenetic chains of thirds in the first, third and final pieces were delivered with impassioned elan.

In his otherwise finely sculpted, lyrical rendition of Beethoven's sonata in D Op 28 'Pastoral', Gamba's rubato -- in contrast to the Schumann and Brahms -- was too obtrusive, detracting from the larger sense of classical architecture, and the Scherzo was too fast to be really witty. But the processional second slow movement was effective, with many expressive details emerging elsewhere, as in the development section of the first movement and contrapuntal episodes in the final Rondo. Gamba, who studied in Verona and was a laureate at the Van Cliburn, Leeds and Gina Bachauer competitions, is clearly is an artist with serious purpose and insight, with a promising career ahead.

Copyright © 5 December 2002 Malcolm Miller, London, UK




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