LAWRENCE BUDMEN listens to
Romanian pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa
and to other artists at the
Miami International Piano Festival Master Series
The enigmatic history of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) is often mirrored in his music. After returning to Russia (after nearly two decades in the West) and the outbreak of World War Two, Prokofiev divided his creative work between patriotic (some would say propagandistic) scores and pensive, disturbing works that were grounded in the perilous milieu of the times. His three wartime piano sonatas are towering works in this genre and remain a formidable challenge for any keyboard artist. Romanian pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa took up the challenge of Prokofiev's Sonata No 7 in B flat Op 83 at her stunning recital on 20 March 2004 at the Steinway Concert Hall in Coral Gables, Florida, USA -- the culmination of the Miami International Piano Festival Master Series.
Ms Ursuleasa is an extraordinary musician. Her technique is awesome. Every bar is imbued with a level of creativity that makes familiar music resound in a new, freshly minted manner. Prokofiev's daunting cluster chords and rapid fire pianistic flourishes held no terrors for her. Rarely has the bitter humor of the Allegro Inquieto been drawn so strongly. Ms Ursuleasa is an artist who is not afraid to take interpretive risks. The Andante Caloroso has never sounded so beautifully dreamy. Ms Ursuleasa's melting tonal palette seemed to redefine the music. It was as if she was composing the score as she played -- remarkable! The concluding Precipitato was a brilliant display of pure pianistic pyrotechnics. Ms Ursuleasa took this fiendish movement at a rapid clip and triumphed. This score was written for Sviatoslav Richter and was introduced to America by Vladimir Horowitz. Ms Ursuleasa was their equal in every way.
The remainder of her concert was no less impressive. In Seven Fantasies Op 116 by Johannes Brahms, Ms Ursuleasa captured the sensitivity, lyricism, and surprising quirkiness of this late opus. Her ability to capture sentiment without sentimentality was the mark of a true artist. And what glowing tone and beautiful playing! In Beethoven's rarely played Eroica Variations Op 35 she brought tremendous musical imagination and fleet fingered brilliance -- playing the composer could have only dreamed about! Her ability to find the grand line between the theme and the total variation structure was truly impressive. Ursuleasa's crystalline tone and incisive clarity defined great Beethoven playing. Her encore of Ravel's Alborado del Gracioso had languid Spanish atmosphere, impressionistic tonal hues, and brilliant fingering to burn. She has the spontaneity, musicality, and instrumental command of Martha Argerich. (Like Argerich, Ursuleasa is a free musical spirit and a force of nature.) Mihaela Ursuleasa is a talent on the genius level!
Copyright © 30 March 2004
Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA