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RECITAL REVIEW

Elizabeth MacDougall Plays Debussy's Suite Feb. 19 at Mendocino College

MACDOUGALL'S PIANISM CHARMS MENDOCINO COLLEGE AUDIENCE FEB. 19

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 19, 2012

The adage that no woman is a prophet in her own home town was, as usual, proven false Feb. 19 when Ukiah native Elizabeth MacDougall gave a warmly satisfying piano recital in Mendocino College’s Choral Room under the auspices of Concerts Grand.

Ms. MacDougall’s artistry has long been admired in the Mendocino County community, and for this recital of three works her audience packed the small room and heard a committed and serious presentation, beginning with Bach’s G Minor English Suite, BWV 808. Ms. MacDougall is a thoughtful, focused player that pays attention to Bach’s pesky details and is liberal with repeats, though at times she lacks flamboyance. These salient qualities served her well in the set of dances that comprise the Suite. Her trills and turns throughout were clear, as was the articulation. The Courante was lovely with careful phrasing and, as with all the movements, she manages rock steady tempos. The Gigue sparkled and was judiciously played.

Debussy’s popular Children’s Corner Suite closed the first half and like the Bach Suite was prefaced by extended remarks from the artist. Composed in 1908 for his daughter, Debussy in six disparate movements encapsulates memories of his own childhood and suggests comparison with Schumann’s Kinderscenen and Faure’s Dolly Suite. The Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum section had clear chordal outlines and was built to a fine toccata-like conclusion, and Ms. MacDougall carried a relaxed approach into the famous Serenade for the Doll, heavily using the shift pedal and contrasting legato and staccato sections. The concluding Golliwog’s Cake Walk was played with spice, the jazzy harmonies accented and again the pace steady and deliberate.

Played from score as was the entire recital, Beethoven’s magnificent Sonata in E, Op. 109, comprised the entire second part. This restless but amiable work was played introspectively but without the wrenching espressivity that appears in the second movement's theme and six variations. Ms. MacDougall can spin a lovely cantabile and her pedaling was always clean, letting the music unfold naturally. What I missed was more flexibility in phrasing, as even the heavenly phrase that ends the work needed a more supple rhythm and touch.

Responding to a standing ovation, the pianist played Chopin's arristocratic C-Sharp Minor Waltz, Op. 64, No. 2

Ukiah musical benefactors Joan and George Louie underwrote the concert and hosted a lavish reception in their home, replete with music making at their two pianos and exceptional curry and dessert dishes. Praise for such musical support can go no higher.

The reviewer is the producer of the Concerts Grand series.