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RECITAL REVIEW

Laura Magnani Playing Schubert Sept. 11 at Spring Lake Village

ECLECTIC DRAMATIC PROGRAMING IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Marin-based pianist Laura Magnani combined piquant remarks to an audience of 100 Sept. 11 with dramatic music making in a recital at Spring Lake Village’s Montgomery Center.

Ms. Magnani’s eclectic programming in past SLV recitals continued, beginning with three sonatas by her Italian compatriot Scarlatti, this evening the C Major (K. 159), D Minor (L. 366) and the A Major (K. 113).
Her comments from the stage juxtaposed harpsichord technique (the instrument the composer used) with the greater key weight and dip of the modern concert grand, and she proceeded to play each with deft use of the damper pedal, in one case holding it down lovingly through a beginning phrase.

Tempos in each were on the fast side and her cross hand and skip techniques made each come alive, with beguiling legato in the wonderful A Major. There were novel interpretative touches in each, and she arpeggiated the last Sonata’s final chord, again with ample pedal.

Dramatic playing continued with Schubert’s Drei Klavierstücke, D. 946, three pieces written in the composer’s last year and that have become rightly popular. Seeming extensions from the Op. 94 Moments Musicaux, the E-Flat Minor and the C Major received readings that favored a vigorous sound over tonal beauty. The exception was the lyrical E-Flat Major, a slow waltz in character that Ms. Magnani played with bass pedal points and themes with sentiment but never sentimentality.

Gershwin’s Three Preludes (1934) followed, the allegro ben ritmato e deciso’s craggy rhythms having orchestral playing, the opposite of Ms. Magnani’s “hot house” interpretation of the short andante with jazzy blues qualities. The offbeat dissonances were effective.

The recital ended with Prokofiev’s energetic Second Sonata, Op. 14, and in her verbal introduction the pianist described it as having disturbing neuroticism and novel bi-tonality sections. It has become a specialty piece for Ms. Magnani, and the highlight of this concert. The hall’s bright acoustics and powerful piano produced a big sound, and the pianist was in each of the four movements up to the demands of the work written in 1912.

Muscular sforzando playing was heard in the brilliant scherzo movement, full of ideas and some of the recital’s best playing. The dirge-like andante was intensely played, even atmospheric at places, with the odd sound of “bells” blaring. The vivace had the requisite histrionic mood, a virtuosic perpetual motion tarantella performance that was clearly allied with the composer’s percussive Toccata from the same year as the D Minor Sonata

One could speculate that the often acerbic and demanding Sonata might find a tepid response from SLV residents, but the opposite was true with a standing ovation recognizing the artist’s potent and convincing pianism.

No encore formal was offered, though the pianist later played sections of Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu for admirers that gathered around the piano.