MUSIC REVIEW : Romantic, Post-Romantic Program by Ed Deveny

Considering his choice of program, Ed Deveny might have opted to move from one instance of showstopping fireworks to another. But on Tuesday night, at Norris Theatre in Rolling Hills Estates, the veteran pianist chose to sidestep pyrotechnics in favor of a kaleidoscope of dynamics.

The evening centering on Romantic and Post-Romantic composers presented ample opportunity for a sensitive colorist. Works like Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in E-flat, Opus 23, No. 6 and Brahms’ Intermezzo in B-flat minor, Opus 117, No. 2 unfolded leisurely, luxuriating in changing harmonies and quietly reveling in the interplay of subtle voicing.

Tempo markings provided only very loose guidelines. The vivace Chopin indicated for his E-minor Etude in the Opus 25 collection received considerable taming in a quirky, unhurried version. Here, Deveny made liberal and thoughtful use of rubato with unforced and inviting results.

Some liberties did not see such happy outcomes, however. The Toccata, Opus 7 of Robert Schumann--oft-used as a fiery closing--appeared as a slightly slow and much-subdued miniature. The pianist applied the same interest in musical nuance that had characterized other selections, but sacrificed overall conception to captivating details. Moments that should have provided respite from tension merely blended in, with an outcome more puny than powerful.


Prokofiev’s Toccata, Opus 11 fared much better. While the playing did not shine with forcefulness or speed, it did shimmer with pointillistic control of telling accent and sudden shifts in dynamics. Mastery over the softer end of the dynamic palette was particularly glowing, as it had been throughout the program.

Though missed notes briefly blurred several works (more than one member of the audience must have winced through the opening passage of Scriabin’s D-sharp minor Etude, Opus 8, No. 12), instances of brilliant--or perhaps once brilliant--technique did surface. The B-flat minor Prelude by Chopin flew by, still with ever-vigilant attention to intricate shading.