Study in contrasts: in the same Wednesday I witnessed the presentation of two very different pianists: I have already reviewed Alexander Ullman´s refined Chopin at the Gran Rex, too big and matte a hall for him. And now, the comeback of veteran Argentine pianist Eduardo Delgado, for Chopiniana at the Palacio Paz, an artist of very powerful sound in a resonant small hall.
Born in Rosario, the mere mention of his teachers reveals his generation, that of Argerich, a good friend of his: Vicente Scaramuzza here, Sergio Lorenzi in Venice, Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard. His career as a pianist has been chequered, but he has long been an esteemed teacher (twenty years at California´s State University, Fullerton) and member of the jury of numerous international competitions. He has collaborated with José Cura in two records and committed to CDs Ginastera´s complete piano music. (By the way, his biography in the hand programme was horridly translated, probably Google´s).
Although he has visited his hometown (Rosario) often, he played rarely in Buenos Aires. I was told that he wanted very much to give a recital here. I heard him when he was young (1965) and once with Argerich in one of her festivals, so I was quite interested in this live contact.
The first thing that struck me was that the programme was enormous, as if to compensate for his long absence. Also, the wrong lack of information about the two Domenico Scarlatti pieces he played: there are over 560 of them! And all we were told was "Two sonatas"; you need the Kk (Kirkpatrick) number, the catalogue that superseded Longo´s. And finally, the lack of stylistic affinity mixing Schumann and Ravel in the First Part when the latter should have begun the Second Part, particularly because the chosen piece, the "Alborada del Gracioso", is a good companion to Granados.
Such criteria from a veteran teacher pianist surprised me, for they mean poor judgment. But of course the playing is the main thing, and after the First Part there were colliding opinions. Not about Scarlatti, which seemed correct in style and well played: a slow and a fast one, both rather well-known. But Schumann´s "Fantasia" is his most difficult score, and probably the best, even harder than "Carnaval" or the "Symphonic Etudes". There was no gainsaying about the artist´s concentration and involvement, really intense, but I felt (and others concurred) that much was arbitrary and his touch was too massive, that there were numerous smudges and that he fell often in that irritating fault of anticipating the left hand in chords so that they sounded like arpeggios. Others minimized these problems and were carried away by the pianist´s Romantic impulse.
Ravel´s "Pavane for a dead Infanta" (not just "Pavane", as the programme said) needs flow and charm; I didn´t find these qualities. But the "Alborada del Gracioso", cheeky, Spanish and advanced both in harmony and rhythm, was quite good, perhaps his best playing in the recital; he solved perfectly passages of very fast repetition of a single note.
The Second Part was presented by Delgado, who said that it commemorated the centenary of both Granados´ death and Ginastera´s birth. Also, it was announced that Chopin´s "Fantasia", Op.49, was a mistake in the programme and wouldn´t be played; not so, Delgado had ceded to an opinion stressing that there was too much music in the evening.
"La maja y el ruiseñor" and "El amor y la muerte" are two intricate and long pieces from Granados´ "Goyescas" suite, certainly his most elaborate and important music. They need the light touch and the Spanish character that Alicia de Larrocha knew how to communicate; Delgado was much too loud and blocky.
Ginastera´s concise "Suite de Danzas criollas" Op.15 and the Sonata Nº3, his very last piano piece (1982), are joined by devotion to the malambo (in fact the one-movement five-minute Sonata should be called so, or Toccata). This is rustic and rhythmic Ginastera, one that tolerates Delgado´s energetic approach.
Encores: after a bad start in Chopin´s Etude Op.10 Nº 11 (all arpeggios) he did it reasonably well; and the subtle Ginastera of the "Danza de la moza donosa" showed that Delgado can play lightly when he wants.
For Buenos Aires Herald