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ALBERTO PORTUGHEIS enjoys a recital by the
Romanian-American pianist Eugene Alcalay


Eugene Alcalay's lunchtime concert at St James's Piccadilly, London UK, on 6 July 2007 was presented by the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe as part of its flourishing recital series. The fortunate members of the audience were treated to music and pianism of exceptional and rare qualities.

Alcalay, the Romanian-American pianist, currently on the faculty at Wisonsin University, opened his recital with that jewel and less-often played of Beethoven's sonatas, the Sonata in F Op 54. As soon as Alcalay made contact with the keyboard and began to move his fingers, we knew we were in the presence of an imaginative and serious musician, who understands 'why' a composer writes a quaver and not a crotchet, or a sforzando on a particular note. His reading of the sonata was a lesson in style and commitment to the Beethoven 'soul'. My only observations were that I would have preferred less rhythmic strictness throughout the last few bars, where the harmonies and different length values of the chords tell all. The second movement was played with a lyricism and delicacy that somehow betrayed Beethoven's incisiveness, and occasionally justified rage, while the extremely reverberating acoustics of St James's gave the impressionistic effect of almost constant use of pedal.

A selection from Book 6 of Bartók's Mikrokosmos was a perfect vehicle for Eugene Alcalay to show how even the dryest of rhythms or accents, a frequent feature in Bartók, can translate into expressiveness, dancing and joy. The Liszt transcription of Isolde's 'Liebestod' from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde showed us Alcalay's command of line, colour, temperament and imagination. There were moments when one could easily hear orchestra and singers and feel as if one were at the opera house.

With one of the most musical performances I have ever heard of Liszt's 'Dante' Sonata, the recital came to a most rewarding end. The variety of tonal shading that emanated from the beautiful Fazioli piano, Alcalay's sense of line, of large linear shapes, his unfailing technique and his sheer love of communicating, of 'speaking' with his fingers to the audience, made this a truly memorable recital.

Copyright © 14 July 2007 Alberto Portugheis, London UK



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