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RECITAL REVIEW
Music at Oakmont / Thursday, March 9, 2017
Einav Yarden, piano

Pianist Einav Yarden

NOVEL HAYDN AND SCHUMANN IN YARDEN'S OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, March 9, 2017

Israeli pianist Einav Yarden has been a frequent Sonoma County visitor, playing private recitals for Spring Lake Village and Concerts Grand, and twice performing for Music at Oakmont.

The Berlin-based artist returned to Oakmont’s Berger Auditorium March 9 with a program that was neither for connoisseurs nor for popular taste, but was full of rarely-played music from always-played composers. Somehow Beethoven’s magisterial A-Flat Major Sonata managed to get into the mix.

Ms. Yarden has been specializing lately in Haydn’s middle period sonatas, and it was refreshing to hear a work for the first time, the F Major No. 44. She played it very well, using a lot of damper pedal at the end of phrases and keeping the drama small-scaled but effective. The pianist underscored the stylistic diversity and innovation of the opening moderato and paid careful attention to harmonic nuances, of which there are many in this work that doesn’t have the usual level of the composer’s playfulness. The adagio was lovely, the tempo just right.

Schumann’s last set of three Fantasiestücke, Op. 111, closed the first half. Here again the artist played the swirling phrases and sweep of the C Minor in a beguiling tempo, and made the lovely and fragmentary A Flat (No. 2) sound a little like Brahms. But only a little, as Schumann’s harmonies prevailed, as they did in the march like C Major finale that had echoes of the great march from the Op. 17 Fantasy in the same key. Ms. Yarden played the simple theme and quick descending motifs flawlessly, which made the middle section sound all the more graceful.

Following intermission the composer’s Waldszenen, Op. 82, received a performance that stressed the connective tissue between the nine sections: tonal balances, asymmetrical phrasings and many staccato chords and even phrases. There seems to be no forte chords in this piece from 1849, and the entire recital eschewed loud outbursts of sound. Highlights of the playing included the contrapuntal lines in “Solitary Flowers,” poetic and almost flighty playing in the B Flat “Friendly Landscape”, and the extended questioning and a long and delicate decrescendo at the conclusion of “The Prophet Bird.”

Many of the themes in Forest Scenes harken to Schumann lieder, especially the Op. 25 songs “Myrthen,” and Ms. Yarden captured these aural references with idiomatic phrasing and pellucid tone color.

Beethoven’s penultimate Op. 110 Sonata closed the program in a polished and never bass-heavy reading. This glorious Sonata from 1821 is deeply expressive in its three semi-distinct movements, and Ms. Yarden treated the opening moderato in a leisurely manner, amiable and always eloquent. She was never in a hurry

This approach characterized the figurations in the scherzo-like allegro molto and the lyric introduction to the noble fugue. Textures were clear and the cantabile was limpid. It was persuasive Beethoven playing, vivid and convincing. If there was any interpretative misstep it came at the end when the final five bars lacked the non legato punch down to the final a-flat note and the upward push to the last raw fortissimo chord. The musical ecstasy was just missed.

No encore was offered.

Four of Beethoven’s early and seldom-played Op. 33 Bagatelles opened the recital, and each was a gem. Mr. Yarden’s tempos were ideal, as was careful half-pedaling and in No. 2 spotlighting Beethoven’s sly humor. In the will-of-the-wisp No. 7 she played scales and quick repeated notes impeccably.