The first season of the Bulawayo Celebrity Concerts closed on Saturday evening with a consummately accomplished recital by the Spanish pianist, Alicia de Larrocha.
Her resounding technical strength and finesse produced memorable performances of three pieces each from Goyescas by Granados and Iberia by Albeniz, charged with rhythmic and dynamic tension. Intriguing as The Lover and the Nightingale was (from the former) the poetic subtlety of Rondena from the latter was completely heady and stunning.
Two harpsichord sonatas by Antonio Soler – formally and stylistically foreshadowing Scarlatti – got full pianistic treatment with none of the affected delicacy that sometimes passes for classical style. They were captivating.
Bach’s English Suite in A minor is in many respects the most extrovert of the six. Her bold and freely pedaled account stressed the dance origins of the movements without eclipsing their intellectual punch. The power of her left hand enabled her to deliver the fugal imitations in the Prelude with great attack and style.
It was a performance to shock anyone who still thinks of Back as a donnish old mystic. Mystic he undoubtedly was, but there is also a fierce worldy joy in the music and a reading like Mme. De Larrocha’s can make explicit.
I did not think that similar treatment was apposite for Schubert’s A major Sonata Op. 120 (D664). It is a gently inventive piece written for young Josephine von Koller, a “very pretty girl” (Schubert’s words), but no virtuoso. Mme. De Larrocha’s performance was brilliant, but hard driven and mannered in rubato. It seemed to lose sight of the uncomprehending naivete that makes Schubert’s genius so poignant.