The florid program biography for Michael Sellers' Fringe Festival recital at Wilshire United Methodist Church described the pianist as the owner of "a big temperament, an exceptional virtuoso equipment and a warmly personal, spacious and poetic style of performance."
Alas, what we were promised and what was delivered had little in common.
Sellers' timid, error-filled performance Sunday of a Chopin program conveyed little temperament, and no more warmth than a candle. As for the virtuoso equipment, it seemed to need a thorough tune-up.
Why Sellers attempted a Chopin recital is, in fact, something of a mystery. Many of the pieces he chose--particularly the Scherzo No.1 and the A-flat Polonaise--only served to showcase technical deficiencies. He dropped enough notes to fill a suitcase.
A certain recklessness and abandon is required to perform Chopin successfully. On this occasion, we were painfully aware of how difficult the music is.
Nor did Sellers seem to have anything new or interesting to say about these all-too-familiar finger-benders. The Impromptu, Opus 51, the F-minor Fantasy and the Scherzo No.2 were successions of disconnected episodes rather than coherent narratives.
In the second half, Sellers did relax enough to give us satisfying interpretations of two melancholy pieces requiring fewer pyrotechnics: the Nocturne, Opus 55, No.2, and the Mazurka, Opus 45, No.2.
For whatever reasons, nearly half of the small audience responded at the recital's end with a standing ovation.