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RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi

FAST AND FURIOUS AT THE RAVEN THEATER

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pianist Lawrence Holmefjord-Sarabi returned to a hometown Healdsburg Raven Theater audience Feb. 13 in a piano recital heavy on finger busting virtuoso works but short on pianistic subtlety.

Charging into Beethoven’s C Major Sonata, Op.53 (Waldstein), Mr. Holmefjord-Sarabi disclosed that his interests are removed from instrumental color and subtlety, and that he is most happy with the loud and fast. Throughout the program he selected blockbuster display pieces to wow the audience of 200, and when quiet playing might characterize three of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, little attention was given to their elusive and poetic nature. The Op. 66 Wedding Day in Troldhaugen was overplayed and too loud, the bass chords punched out, and both the delicate Op. 12 Arietta and the noble Op. 54 Notturno were too fast and monochromatic.

In the Waldstein Sonata the notes were performed admirably but the work’s humor and in some areas restrained majesty were absent. First-movement section transitions were blurred and he seemed to be always in a rush. Even the usually leisurely floated single G note at the end of the second movement’s Adagio Molto disappeared in the rush to get to the Rondo. The finale’s famous octave glissandi, G to G in alternating hands, were played as scales, and recently Anton Nel did the same in his Santa Rosa Junior College recital. It must be mentioned that the pianist commands a speedy right-hand trill.

Not surprisingly Mr. Holmefjod-Sarabi’s aggressive approach worked best in Book II of the Brahms Paganini Variations, Op. 35. Though tempos were moderate relative to current virtuoso playing, these demonic and loud works comprised of 14 thorny variations needed the agitated playing of the pianist, and he played them with confidence and aplomb.

Following intermission Stravinsky’s Trois Mouvements de Petrouchka was heard, and the recital concluded with Balakirev’s arrangement of Glinka’s Song “The Lark” and the 1865 Oriental Fantasie “Islamey.” The three paraphrases from Stravinsky’s 1921 ballet went by in a blur of glittering display, the long hand stretches and left-hand fireworks exciting the audience. The performance of “The Lark” had good octave playing but was mundane, too loud and lacked rhythmic subtlety and charm.

Mr. Holmefjord-Sarabi chose a moderate tempo for the rich pianistic fabric of Islamey, a showpiece for advanced students and virtuosi alike. The artist’s cross-hand skips and memory were not infallible in this demanding work, but the audience jumped to its feet following the last fortissimo bass tremolo as for a sports figure.