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MUSIC REVIEW : Pianist Davidovich in Recital at Ambassador

Times Music Writer

At a cursory glance, Bella Davidovich’s latest Southland recital program--given Thursday night at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena--might have seemed an agenda of miniatures, a collection of piano pieces of medium difficulty, or a list of morceaux beloved by keyboard amateurs.

In fact, it was all three. But in the hands of Davidovich--a national treasure of a pianist, one of our national treasures since she became a U.S. citizen in 1984--this program of familiar music by Mozart, Schubert, Debussy and Albeniz became a handsome demonstration of virtuosity and a loving exhibition of re-discovered gems of the repertory.

Davidovich was not slumming, or making things easy for herself in choosing to play the B-flat Sonata, K. 333; three selected Schubert impromptus; Debussy’s “Children’s Corner” Suite, two Arabesques, “Valse Romantique” and “L’Isle joyeuse,” plus Albeniz’s “Granada,” “Cordoba” and “Seguidillas.” She was reaffirming the stature--and revisiting the charms--of music we all take for granted, but shouldn’t. In the process, she lifted it, and her audience, out of the doldrums.

Among many reminders here served, this event re-established Debussy’s revolutionary technical aspects, the post-Romantic sweep of his vision--even, and especially, in such minor musical expressions as the “Romantic” Waltz and the early Arabesques.

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But one was also reminded that Albeniz’s inspired miniatures deserve preservation outside the bailiwick of dance, just as Schubert’s individual pieces ought to be played in the real world, not just on heroic and encyclopedic Schubert programs.

Besides doing this service, Davidovich, in top form, delivered the myriad moods of all this music, and differentiated clearly the separate styles with changes of touch, pressure and tone color. Her Mozart had poise, but warmth, her Schubert, songfulness as well as fluency. She did not sentimentalize “Granada” or “Cordoba,” but gave them room to speak. And she allowed the impassioned high points of Debussy’s F-minor Waltz and “L’Isle joyeuse” to become the natural climax in a non-didactic program.

Appropriately enough, and after all this generosity, she gave, as a single encore, Schubert’s brief, uncomplicatedly poignant “Moment Musical” in F minor.


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