Novgorodsky inspires on the piano

(click on the title to see the complete review on the Web)

By Amelia Perron, Issue date: 2/16/07, The Lawrentian

Dmitri Novgorodsky, teacher of piano, presented a solo recital Sunday, Feb. 13, giving the packed hall a full program of virtuosic and moving music. The program was varied, including Beethoven's Sonata op. 110 in A flat major, Rachmaninov's "Variations on a Theme of Corelli," Godowsky's "Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Johann Strauss," and Liszt's Sonata in B minor.

Before playing, Novgorodsky warmed up the audience - and himself - by offering impromptu yet engaging program notes for each of the pieces.

He began by discussing the connection between the two sonatas bookending the program. "The Liszt is the quintessential Romantic sonata," Novgorodsky explained. "But it wouldn't have been possible without Beethoven laying the foundation for the Romantic era. It's an incredibly emotional piece, unifying the personal with the universal." Coming from the other end of the Romantic era is the "Variations on a Theme of Corelli," the last major piece Rachmaninov wrote. Rachmaninov was the black sheep of composers at his time, being unwilling to give up tonality and many of the other 19th-century conventions of composition.

"This piece is so anguished - it is closing the door on tonality, but also on his life," Novgorodsky said.

Of Godowsky, he said simply, "This guy was nuts." In reference to the many virtuosic melodic lines that occur simultaneously, Novgorodsky said, "He makes you do the impossible."

Finally, Novgorodsky discussed Liszt, the first "pop idol" of the musical world. The sonata, however, reflects not the showman but the artist, in the emotionally effective contrasts of "light and dark, demonic and celestial," he explained. "There's passion, drama. He strives for the unattainable."

With Novgorodsky's introduction, the audience was fully prepared to appreciate the impressive performance.