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RECITAL REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, October 17, 2013
Soheil Nasseri, piano

Pianist Soheil Nasseri

MORE WORDS THAN NOTES

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 17, 2013

Soheil Nasseri opened the 23rd Music at Oakmont season Oct. 17 in a piano recital where words from the artist nearly overwhelmed the offered music.

Choosing an all-Beethoven program, Mr. Nasseri preceded the A Major Sonata, Op. 101, with words of personal introduction and humorous anecdotes. The wonderful sonata itself, from Beethoven's last period, was played rather perfunctorily, with plodding tempos and a lack of rhythmic interest. The artist described a non-musical program for the work, but the performance never took off.

Seven more minutes of commentary from the stage preceded the G Major Sonata, Op. 31, No. 1, but here the playing became interesting, with contrasting dynamics and contrapuntal clarity. Nasseri is not a colorist, but he has a transparent sound and shapely phrasing. In the second movement, his right-hand scale passages were lucid.

After finishing the second sonata prior to intermission, Nasseri spoke to the audience in a manner unique in my history of concert going. He said he would be signing CDs by the front door and invited people to chat with him over the interval about his career.

Following intermission, Nasseri spoke again to the audience and then played Beethoven's 11 short Bagatelles from Op. 119. His playing mostly caught the intriguing character of these miniatures with quickly shifting moods. It was concise and direct playing, revealing the composer's subtle humor and small-form creativity. Number six was a jewel, with a restful introduction giving way to convincing pianistic agitation.

Before concluding the program with Beethoven's mighty C Major Sonata, Op. 53 ("Waldstein"), Nasseri asked if anyone had questions about him and his career. Three people did. The subsequent playing was in all ways adequate but small-scaled, the initial tasteless small ritards lessening the momentum of the opening Allegro con Brio. Nonetheless, Nasseri effectively continued an interpretation based on minimum pedal and middle-of-the road tempos. A small memory lapse (everything was played without score) came just before the ending. The short middle movement was performed with care and excellent balance between the hands, the overly bright top end of the piano carrying the pianissimo chords well.

Nasseri played the Rondo finale in the conventional dreamy way and took the pedal in the opening 12 bars to stress the fundamental bass notes. It was some of the best playing of the day, although orthodox throughout, with little left-hand voicing or a big sound. Nasseri did lavish more tone color in this remarkable movement, and in the famous ascending and descending octave passages, he chose a seco touch rather than glissandi.

There was no encore.