Transcriptions and variations on music of Rachmaninoff dominated Nicolas Namoradze’s recital for the Miami International Piano Festival Sunday night at the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach.
While the gifted young Georgia-born pianist displayed a natural affinity for the Russian romantic idiom, his most impressive performances came with masterpieces by Bach and Schubert.
The lobby of the Wolfsonian is a challenging concert space. A long, narrow room with heavy reverberation, the venue can make the keyboard sound overpowering. To his credit, Namoradze adjusted admirably to the environment, His dynamic palette was varied and well judged without allowing the sonority to become harsh.
Namoradze commenced the program with his own composition Memories of Rachmaninoff’s Georgian Song. He later played the original work which has taken on a new life as a folk and popular melody in the pianist’s native country. Namoradze’s work begins with repeated minimalist fragments, followed by crashing chords. Gradually the music develops into more coherent thematic reflections. The original Rachmaninoff melody is never fully stated.
Namoradze studied with Zoltan Kocsis and the late Hungarian pianist’s transcription of Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise is rhapsodic and skillfully adapted for the keyboard. Namoradze’s leisurely paced reading ran the gamut from soft lightness to bold thrusts, his sense of the score’s deep romanticism strongly imprinted.
Namoradze’s own transcription of the Adagio from Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 went beyond merely tailoring the orchestral writing to the keyboard instrument. Namoradze effectively reimagined the third movement of the symphony as a solo keyboard piece. The lustrous melodies were dressed up in the Russian brand of pianistic lyricism with flourishes and variants discreetly added. With a sensitive touch, Namoradze drew a rounded sound from the Steinway.
Between the Rachmaninoff offerings, in what he deemed “a sandwich,” he offered short works by Bach and Ligeti. “Contrapunctus No. 6” from Bach’s Art of the Fugue was distinguished by transparency of inner voicing while commanding a sense of the grand fugal lines.
One does not associate jazz, or for that matter, melody with the music of György Ligeti but Namoradze told the audience that the Hungarian avant-gardist was a huge fan of Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans. Ligeti’s Etude No. 11 (“El suspens”) is actually blues-based and haunting. Namoradze reveled in the entire range of both the piano’s coloration and percussive effects.
For the concert’s second half, Namoradze turned to Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat Major, the composer’s final solo masterpiece. He told the audience that the legendary pianist Artur Schnabel said this was one of those compositions that one “can never play well enough.” His reading was clearly a young pianist’s view of Schubert—impetuous, at times brisk. Still, his playing suggested the darker undercurrents of the initial Moto moderato. Broadly shaped with astute variations of tempo, the movement emerged as a long, steady journey.
Namoradze projected the grave despair of the Andante sostenuto in straightforward fashion. His deft touch allowed the motifs to resound without affectation while giving weight to the contrasting central episode.
The Scherzo was fleetly articulated and lilting. A touch of Beethoven-like thunder added depth to a light traversal of the final Allegro ma non troppo. Namoradze did not exaggerate the hesitations in the coda which came off with requisite brilliance while avoiding a musical race to the finish line.
Namoradze’s encores played to his strengths. He brought out the melancholia and angst of Scriabin’s Etude No. 1 in C-sharp minor, with sweeping tonal heft. The “Sarabande” from Bach’s French Suite No. 1 in D minor was rendered in a spare, direct manner.
Namoradze is clearly an impressive young musician with a rock- solid technique. It will be interesting to hear his continual repertoire explorations and watch his artistry mature.
The Miami International Piano Festival presents Reed Tetzloff playing Berg’s Sonata, Ives’ Three Page Sonata, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 21 (Waldstein) and Brahms’ Sonata No. 3 at 5 p.m. March 26 at Aventura Arts and Cultural Center. miamipianofest.com