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RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Einav Yarden

BRILLIANT HAYDN SONATA HIGHLIGHTS YARDEN'S JUNE 9 OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oakmontís popular concert series, now in its 20th year, usually programs just two pianists in a 12-concert season. However, producer Robert Haydenís eclectic taste guarantees that the selected pianists will play provocative works, and it was again so June 9 when Israeli artist Einav Yarden presented a bifurcated program before 150 in Oakmontís Berger Auditorium.

In an admirable first half, Ms. Yarden began with the 11 Beethoven Bagatelles, Op. 119, a change from the announced Op. 33 Bagatelles. These are amazing works, a few just 15 seconds in lengths, and encompass snippets of the Bonn masterís endless invention. Many feature a light staccato touch in which the pianist excels, but others (the fourth and tenth) are fast, scattered and insistent. Ms. Yarden caught the ephemeral nature of the works, presenting a conception that nothing additional needed to be said about each.

Seven of Bartokís 14 Op. 6 Bagatelles followed, obviously harmonically different than Beethoven but also requiring quick tempo changes and clear articulation. The atmospheric third Bagatelle was followed by dramatic marching chords in the fourth and virtuosic heraldry in the final seventh. Ms. Yarden made the dissonances, perhaps grating even at their composition in 1908, seem of a piece and natural. The pianist can float a lovely pianissimo when the music demands. It was a strong performance and drew fulsome applause.

Haydnís D Major Sonata, Hob. XVI: 24, completed the first half and received a masterful reading from the pianist. The opening Allegro featured a quick tempo, distinctive lines and chaste pedal. Ms. Yardenís finger staccato added clarity and Haydnís humor and charm were in evidence throughout. Mention must be made of the pianistís wonderful scale playing, even in difficult hand positions and where off-beat accents are called for in the score. The slow movement (Adagio) had a sense of mystery and the pianistís even trills and control of balances were exemplary. The right-hand runs in the finale were brilliant, the legato used in some scales for contrast. A deft touch. It was for this reviewer the best Haydn Sonata played in the local area in years, and the highlight of the recital.

Two Schumann songs in Liszt transcriptions opened the second half and were less than congenial for the pianist. The FrŁhlingsnacht, from the Liederkreis, Op. 39, No. 12, gave the pianist technical trouble, albeit with a judicious tempo that allowed subtlety. There was no shimmering magic in the repeated chords. The celebrated Widmung transcription, in the first of two versions Liszt wrote, was tentative and in the declamatory sections brittle and lacking fervor.

Closing the recital was Schumannís great C Major Fantasie, Op. 17, one of the glories of 19th Century romantic pianism. Here Ms. Yarden was more in her element, giving a performance of abundant character without being really memorable. The first movement was played at a moderate tempo and with command, but the dynamic extremes needed to underline what Schumann said were his most passionate utterances were missing. The final resolution into C Major, at a place the pianist Moritz Rosenthal said only occurred just before the allusion to a Beethoven song, was tender and properly lingering.

The middle march movement was not tentative but was also not orchestral, the pianist choosing to underplay the marcato elements. It was not a note-perfect movement in the coda but the perilous contrary-motion skips prior to the final three chords were taken with precision and speed. In a middle-of-the-road performance Schumannís exaltation with ardor and pianistic sound were absent.

The sonorous finale was had the requisite flow and both of the climaxes had power and led inexorably to the quiet postlude. Here the concert piano almost seems to lack hammers and Ms. Yarden brought forth the most tonal colors and musical contemplation of the afternoon. After many seconds of silence a standing ovation greeted the conclusion of the Fantasie, but no encore was offered.

Ms. Yarden, in her first extended tour of Sonoma County, appeared on the Charles Sepos KRCB ďCurtain CallĒ program June 10 and in a posh private recital for Concerts Grand June 11 in Santa Rosa.