Three pianists took the stage at the Aventura Arts and Culture Center on Sunday for the Miami International Piano Festival’s Concerto Night. The opening program of the organization’s 25th anniversary season was highlighted by a late substitution and the immensely gifted American pianist Reed Tetzloff’s bracing performance of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor.
In 2021 Tetzloff debuted in Miami with an impressive recital for Kaleidoscope MusArt that displayed his wide-ranging repertoire affinities from Beethoven to Ives and contemporary scores by Clarence Barlow and Jonathan Dawe.
The artistic intelligence he brought to that venturesome program was fully evident in a traversal of the Schumann concerto that was idiosyncratic in the best sense of the term. Right from the outset of the opening Allegro affettuoso, Tetzloff molded phrases with elasticity while never allowing the broader musical pulse to unwind. He drew crystalline tone from the Steinway and elicited exciting moments of daredevil bravura. Familiar themes and runs were realized with detailed vibrance in Tetzloff’s fresh interpretation.
Tetzloff elicited bright textures in the scherzo-like figurations of the Intermezzo while taking the romantic secondary subject at a more relaxed pace. The concluding Allegro vivace emerged bold and brisk with Tetzloff bringing excitement to the score’s final pages. Tetzloff’s technically immaculate pianism was never a mere vehicle of flashy display, and resounded with idiomatic verve and joie de vivre in a thoroughly organic manner.
Conducting a 31-piece ensemble, Hobart Earle, music director of the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra, drew well-balanced playing. Earle was a full collaborator, matching Tetzloff’s imaginative performance that totally revitalized a familiar masterpiece.
The concert’s first half commenced with a classically refined version of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major by Israeli pianist Ariel Lanyi.
Lanyi reveled in the quirky thematic turns of the first movement. He chose Beethoven’s most lengthy and ambitious cadenza, imbuing it with a natural lift, bereft of exaggeration. He took a poetic approach to the Largo, with playing that was exquisite and nuanced. The final Rondo was crisp and highly syncopated with an almost improvisatory feeling and the give-and-take between soloist and orchestra in the coda skillfully accomplished. After a somewhat unsettled introductory orchestral tutti, Earle adeptly followed Lanyi’s shaping of musical lines.
Dmitriy Ablogin, originally scheduled to play Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 2, was unable to appear due to testing positive for Covid. In his place, festival veteran Kemal Gekic assayed two scores by Chopin in the composer’s orchestral iterations. Although more associated with playing Liszt, Gekic is finely attuned to the Polish composer’s brand of romantic nostalgia. Although the early Variations on Polish Airs in A minor is not one of Chopin’s stronger scores, Gekic infused the melodic figures with grace, exhibiting a surprisingly light touch.
The Andante spianato et Grande Polonaise Brilliante, however, is prime Chopin. Gekic traced the flourishes of the solo Andante at a flowing, somewhat faster tempo than usually heard. The polonaise sparkled, the rhythms perfectly placed and articulated with considerable elan. With UM Frost School of Music faculty member Scott Flavin as concertmaster, Earle led a lithe and robust realization of Chopin’s unfairly maligned orchestral writing.
The program was a fine celebration of the festival’s quarter-century of introducing talented and promising pianists to South Florida audiences. But Tetzloff’s revelatory Schumann took the concert to another level.