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RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Daria Rabotkina

PIANIST RABOTKINA DEFTLY PLAYS RUSSIANS IN OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oakmontís monthly Concert Series produces just a few solo piano recitals each year, and they usually feature out-of-the-ordinary repertoire and performers of international caliber. October 21ís recital presenting Daria Rabotkina was no exception to the established norm, the young Russian capably playing three big works to a Berger Auditorium of 175 with consummate ease.

The entire first half was devoted to Prokofievís Ten Pieces, Op. 75, taken from the ballet Romeo and Juliet. From 1937, the works are more effective separately than as a group, the melodies direct and uncomplicated. Ms. Rabotkina lavished a lot of time on each, never rushing even in the most popular of the set, Montagues and Capulets. Here the wonderful play of bass chords had a chilling effect, missing when the tempo is too fast. The pianistís rhythmic security was matched with the many march-like passages and sharp sforzandos. This was Prokofiev playing removed from the drama of the Sonatas, though in the quieter parts (Juliet as a Young Girl and Romeo and Juliet Before Parting) the playing was sensitive and colorful.

Schumannís popular Kinderscenen, Op. 15, followed intermission and was lovingly played without much individuality, substantially different than the Valentina Lisitsa performance February in Santa Rosa. This was chaste playing with considerable attention to detail, but mostly without inner voices or changes in texture as the 13 parts unfolded. Ms. Rabotkina has a firm control of pace and excellent chordal balancing, the Tršumerei and Kind im Einschlummern parts almost soporific in their languorous tempos.

The big work on the program was Rachmaninoffís B Flat Sonata, in the 1931 version, and it was given a curiously underplayed reading. Curious in the sense that this work, exceptionally popular in competitions for the past 20 years, is almost always a volcano of fortissimo chords, large dynamic contrasts and bring-down-the-house virtuosity. Mr. Rabotkinaís approach, perhaps in conjunction with the instrumentís sound and the hallís muddied acoustics, was never strident and looked for inner continuity rather than the last once of sonic power. For example, the big chord bass chord just prior to the cascade of notes in the third-movement coda didnít come with an aural crash, a unique touch for this reporter. This was not note perfect playing but a performance that had emotional intensity without being relentless.

The lovely Rachmaninoff Vocalise from the songs of Op. 34, and composed in 1912, concluded the program in a nostalgic mood, the rich harmonies and subtle pianistic rubato savored by the attentive crowd. The arranger for this solo piano version was unidentified.

One encore was given, a rollicking performance of Chopinís Opus Posthumous Waltz in E Minor.