Roman Rabinovich Delivers an Irresistibly Fun, Nuanced, Dynamic Lincoln Center Recital
About half a dozen bars into the jaunty, peek-a-boo phrasing of Haydn’s 1789 Sonata in C Major, what was unmistakably clear was that pianist Roman Rabinovich got this piece. And obviously had a great time getting acquainted with it, and committing its tongue-in-cheek, practically snarky leaps and pounces to memory. He made every pause a full stop, underscoring the sense of the unexpected that the composer works so amusingly until the piece builds to full steam. Slowly, purposefully, Rabinovich parsed the dynamics for all they were worth so that when the second movement, a lively rondo, came around, the party at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theatre really got going. No small achievement for before noon on a chilly, blustery Sunday morning.
The world premiere of Michael Brown’s partita Surfaces made a good segue, particularly since it’s similarly spacious and even more dynamic. Inspired by a series of paintings by the pianist himself, it opened with a Toru Takemitsu-tinged minimalism, rising toward a steady, elegaic passage, up to an astringent, bell-toned, twisted scherzo of sorts, again echoing the Haydn. Rabinovitch brought it full circle, quietly and broodingly. It was the highlight of the performance.
Then the pianist revisited Haydn, this time with the Sonata in E Minor, from around 1780. On one hand, this was more of a traditional, lively court dance, yet Rabinovich seemed to be reveling in subtext. He played up all its incessant good cheer to the point where that seemed suspicious. Was this a secret message from the composer to himself to just wrap up this cotton candy dance and then find a way to sneak off the Esterhazy estate forever?
The program’s concluding number was Schumann’s Fasshinsswank aus Wien, and this was where Rabinovich got a little carried away. Then again, that’s what the suite is about, and after all the nuance and intuition he’d mined from the three earlier pieces, he was entitled to some reckless abandon. It’s not really grand guignol: it’s more like grand guignol lite. And it’s not nearly as funny as the Haydn for lack of subtlety, although considering the title – “Farce from Vienna”- its humor is meant to be broad. Rabinovich made short work of its forcefully percussive motives, in contrast with an unexpectedly lingering, pensive passage and then a playful, bouncy coda. And earned a standing ovation for it. Rabinovich’s next New York concert is May 14 at 3 PM at Alice Tully Hall, with works by Haydn, Schumann and Beethoven plus one of his own.