Boris Bloch is a pianist cast in heroic mold. Few pianists of any age or nationality, even in this abnormally endowed era of piano playing, can match the scope and versatility of the mastodonic program the young Soviet emigre played in Murphy Hall of Loyola Marymount University Friday night. But where was the piano-conscious public? It is missing an exciting talent.
Bloch is also a risk-taker as well as a conventional virtuoso. He dared George Crumb's Three Pieces for Amplified Piano--in which the pianist is called on to use his arms, fists and elbows to reach into the interior of the instrument and scratch the strings, all the while singing nonsense syllables into a microphone--with the aplomb of a veteran avant-gardist. Not only that, he made sound musical sense of the operation.
Bloch can play spectacularly, but he is shrewd enough to not always consciously aim at the spectacular. To observe the Domenico Scarlatti tercentenary he chose five unfamiliar sonatas, and played them for pianistic--rather than harpsichord--values, without any sacrifice for style, charm or sensitivity.
He turned his attention to Schumann's massive third Grand Sonata, Opus 14, subtitled "Concerto Without Orchestra," which only Horowitz has braved in recent years, and discovered equal amounts of exhilarating bravura and lyrical tenderness in the vast canvas.
The five Preludes of Scriabin's Opus 74, his last compositions for piano, seethed with frenetic aspiration under unerring control. For Etudes Tableaux from Rachmaninoff's Opus 33 reveled in orchestral sonorities so bold that they could have been evoked either by Rachmaninoff himself or by Horowitz.
Busoni's Chamber Fantasy on Bizet's "Carmen" had been excised from the printed list because the pianist thought the program was too long, but came encore time and it was reinstated with breathtaking verve and extraordinary application of color.
The applause flared again, and the pianist obligingly delivered the three-movement Oboe Concerto by Marcello that no less than J.S. Bach transcribed for keyboard. "The more I play the better I like it," said the pianist. To close a lengthy, but not too long evening, came the opening Prelude to Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier," sculptured with engaging simplicity.