MUSIC REVIEW : Dominguez Closes Seal Beach Fest : * With much personality and attentiveness, the pianist offers classical standards for the final concert of the 17th annual event.


In these days of faceless, objective pianism, a pianist with a personality-- any personality--is something to be thankful for. Albert Dominguez is such a pianist. Even when the individuality of his approach seems at odds with what he is playing--as it sometimes did on Tuesday--one can always admire the attentiveness of his playing.

Dominguez, well known in the area for his work with the adventuresome Southwest Chamber Music Society, offered a program of classical standards for the final concert of the 17th Seal Beach Chamber Music Festival, at McGaugh School. This was reportedly his 14th consecutive year in the festival.

One is seldom overwhelmed by the drama of Dominguez’s playing or the intensity of his feelings. His readings are perhaps best characterized as nervous, a result not of any uneasiness on the part of the performer, but of his compact phrasing, abrupt accenting and quick tempos, his constant detailing. This tautness hardly ever vanishes. One is rarely left breathless by the results, but always interested.


Perhaps best served Tuesday was the most familiar work, Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata. In crafting each phrase individually and denying climax, Dominguez made the opening movement introductory to the sonata as a whole, not a piece complete in itself.

His curtly inflected playing underlined the rhythmic crosscurrents of the Allegretto. Though an excessive use of pedal muddied some the finale’s virtuosity, it was an otherwise speedy and urgent reading.

Similarly, in a Chopin group--including three Etudes, the C-sharp-minor Mazurka, and the Waltz in A-flat, Opus 34--Dominguez controlled every nuance; melody lines were pointed, tempos energetic. His readings eschewed some of the grandeur inherent in these works perhaps, but certainly proved viable.

Liszt’s “Mephisto” Waltz, however, seemed pushed, fidgety rather than devilish, though confidently executed. He brought clarity of texture to Debussy’s “Estampes” and a wide variety of touch to two excerpts from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet,” while evoking no especially vivid images.

He opened the concert with two Scarlatti sonatas, L. 238 and 465, the first revealing Dominguez in an uncharacteristically relaxed and gently singing mode.