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RECITAL REVIEW

Anastasia Dedik April 13 in Sonoma

RUSSIAN PIANIST, RUSSIAN MUSIC, RUSSIAN DRAMA

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 13, 2014

In the season’s penultimate Sonoma Classical Music Society concert on Sunday afternoon, April 13, Russian pianist Anastasia Dedik played an all-Russian program that was heavy on drama with just a modicum of lyricism.

Two Rachmaninoff Etudes Tableaux opened the program, the E-Flat Minor from Op. 33 and the F Sharp from Op. 39. These are stormy pieces with broad rhythms and, in the latter, loud doubled staccato chords. These pieces have a lot of notes in a short span and were played aggressively throughout. The music was not helped by the Vintage House hall, its flat floor without stage generating muddy acoustics at any volume above mezzo forte.

Things brightened with a Prokofiev bagatelle, “Summer Fairy,” from his Op. 97 ballet “Cinderella.” Here Ms. Dedik accented Prokofiev’s mildly astringent harmonies. The short lyrical work was a pleasant surprise following the dense Rachmaninoff studies.

Another ballet transcription, Mikhail Pletnev’s selection of scenes from Tchaikovsky’s ballet “Nutcracker,” closed the first half with familiar melodies. The transcription is a charming virtuoso work of seven sections; Ms. Dedik played six. She stressed the left-hand rhythmic underpinnings of the stately opening March, and in the "Sugar Plum Fairy" and "Intermezzo" movements, she produced some of the day’s most elegant playing, the pure themes glowing and tranquil.

In the slow "Chinese Dance" and concluding "Pas de Deux" sections, the playing was most effective when Ms. Dedik did not force the tone. In the slow descending runs, the music unfolded naturally with rich low-register color.

Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” filled the second half, and under the pianist’s fingers (and feet) it was an odyssey of sonority and contrast. She chose a theatrical and at times histrionic approach to the work that demanded every bit of pianistic drama her technique could provide. The repeated ”Promenade” effectively tied together the ten sections. Ms. Dedik is not a note-perfect pianist, but in the “Ballet of the Unhatched Canary Chicks” her playing gave the illusion of scattering motion and even joy. Her performance throughout this massive work stressed sonic power at the expense of small bits of musical humor and repose. But it’s that kind of piece, and the audience of 150 rose to congratulate the artist’s stamina and exciting virtuosity that amply captured Mussorgsky’s demanding score.

During the afternoon the barrage of often cloudy sound was in contrast to the Series’ last concert with the estimable Alexander String Quartet. Every note and phrase of their all-Beethoven concert was warm and distinct. Vintage House does favor string music over challenging solo piano repertoire.

Violinist Nigel Armstrong, a frequent performer on the Sonoma series, will conclude the season with a Mother’s Day recital on May 11 in the Jacuzzi Winery barrel room.