12 years ago - a solo recital by Gary Graffman

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12 years ago - a solo recital by Gary Graffman

Post by Ricordanza » Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:53 am

Prompted by some kind words from Arepo, f/k/a Cliftwood, I looked through some old files and came upon this review from January 2003, two years before I joined CMG. It brought back good memories of this unusual recital. I hope others find it interesting:

The story of Gary Graffman is well known. After achieving recognition as one of the finest pianists in this country, in 1979, he developed a nerve/muscle condition in his right hand which limited his public performances thereafter to music for the left hand only. He remains well known in this area as the head of the Curtis Institute of Music. I had heard him play a few years ago as a soloist in two works for piano and orchestra, Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 4 and a work by Benjamin Britten (the title of which I’ve forgotten), but I’ve never had the opportunity to hear Graffman in solo recital until Friday night.

He began the program with two early works of Scriabin, a Prelude and a Nocturne, Op. 9, Nos. 1 and 2. The second was especially beautiful, and Graffman’s performance was expressive and technically secure. He followed with a Sonata by one Carl Reinecke (1824-1910). The name is vaguely familiar to me, but I can’t say that I’ve heard anything by him before this recital. It’s a tuneful and pleasant four-movement work. We do know, at least, that Reinecke was prolific; this piece is numbered Op. 179. Graffman received respectable applause for this, but the real ovation of the night was reserved for his next piece, an arrangement by Brahms of the famous Bach Chaconne. It didn’t matter that Graffman was playing with one hand; he was simply masterful in conveying the majesty and passion of this timeless work.

Following intermission, he played a set of four “Special Studies” by Max Reger. The concluding piece was a Fugue, and although I’m sure most of the program was technically challenging, to my ears and from my excellent keyboard-side view, this appeared to be the most devilish of them all. This was followed by a Concert Etude by Emil Von Sauer and another Etude by Felix Blumenfeld. The latter piece was the only one on the program (other than the Chaconne in other forms) that I had heard before, namely, in a recording by Marc-Andre Hamelin. Graffman’s formal program concluded with commanding performances of two of Leopold Godowsky’s “arrangements” of Chopin Etudes. While the audience applauded enthusiastically enough to justify several encores, Graffman offered only one: a take-off on Paganini’s 24th Caprice, written for him by a composer with a Russian-sounding name.

My overall impression: there are few pianists with the benefit of both hands to rival the musicianship and technique of Gary Graffman.

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Re: 12 years ago - a solo recital by Gary Graffman

Post by arepo » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:48 am

I remember this recital well and left that evening marveling at Graffman's remarkable examples of musicianship.

How tragic that he and Leon Fleisher had their careers cut short by their hand afflictions and how remarkable that they both made the best of their ailments.

Thanks once again ,Henry.


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