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RECITAL REVIEW
Sky Hill Cultural Alliance / Sunday, September 22, 2019
Elizabeth Walter pianist

Elizabeth Walter Playing Mozart Sept. 22 in Petaluma

GINASTERA'S PERCUSSIVE SONATA SHINES IN WALTER'S PETALUMA RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 22, 2019

Elizabeth Walter has had considerable impact on Petaluma’s classical music scene, actively promoting music programs in schools, producing concerts through her Sky Hill Cultural Alliance, and playing benefit concerts to raise funds for music in area schools. Sporadically she performs just for the music itself, and Sept. 22 found her in recital in the cozy Petaluma Historical Museum.

Programming four sonatas and playing from score throughout, the artist began with Mozart’s lyrical B Flat Sonata, K. 333, in a performance that featured relaxed tempos and conventional phrasing. The house piano has a bright and tonally thin top end that surprisingly added to the thematic and harmonic clarity. Trills in the charming andante cantabile were even, and in the extended rondo Ms. Walter departed from her temperate reading by letting in some musical “light” in the novel cadenza. The section is unique to Mozart’s 18 principal sonatas, and it was played with brio.

Beethoven’s early C Minor Sonata, Op. 13 (“Pathétique”) completed the first half, with Ms. Walter emphasizing some of the raw drama in the writing, with a judicious tempo in the opening grave-allegro. The held fermatas were loud and delicious. A strict tempo characterized the lovely adagio with just a little speed up in the middle, and steadfast rhythms in the rondo finale. Right-hand voices were underscored and sonic emphasis was changed where Ms. Walter wanted more sound in close hand positions.

In announcing Ravel’s Sonatine (a short sonata) from 1905, the pianist mentioned that it’s mostly a nostalgic minuet, and that her dog is named “minuet.” This playful work is seemingly uncomplicated, but the pianist’s measured rubato and direct approach lacked only richness of tone color, with the instrument both an ally and foe. The animé section had an elegant wash of sound.

A cornerstone in Ms. Walter’s repertoire, Ginastera’s Op. 22 Sonata, was the afternoon’s highlight, and extends the energetic Danzas Argentinas (composed 15 years prior) into a high-temperature percussive four-movement work of exceptional force. Ms. Walter rose to the occasion with the requisite contrary double octaves, heavy damper pedal and often-breathless potent speed. She caught the mystery of the rhapsodic adagio molto, and drove headstrong into the ostinato that concludes a wild sonic ride over fifteen minutes. There was introspection and also loud contrasts, and the small audience generated a resonant ovation at the final chord.

Ms. Walter’s pianism in this recital was secure and often forceful, and she eschewed histrionics and wayward realizations in favor of careful attention to the score and letting these majestic works unfold convincingly.