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REVIEW OF DROR BIRAN RECITAL (article first published : 2000-10-12)

Dror Biran, a young Israeli pianist on the threshold of a promising career, opened his recital for Friends of Music with Brahmsí Four Ballades Op 10. His finely-observed account of these elusive pieces and of the great Schubert Sonata in A minor D784 which followed left little doubt he has both the musical insight and technical wherewithal to take on this taxing repertoire.

He commands full control of the widest dynamic and tonal palette necessary to do justice to the towering peaks that loom constantly in the scores of these mainstream masters.

Biran also has the musical ability to hold his audience in suspense, caressing and curling around intimate musical disclosures before blasting away up the slopes once more. As yet he may not be the most communicative of artists visually but musically he encompasses the finest nuances of mood change to full effect. This came across, for instance, in the puckish humour of the third Brahms Ballade and in the mellow, meandering approach and warm tonal glow with which he enlivened the following piece as well as the quieter moments of the Schubert Sonata.

The second half of the evening had him afire in big scale Russian terrain, offering a fascinating excursion through the little-known, surprisingly curtailed Medtner Sonata in C Op 11 No 3 (this composerís music is one of the major rediscoveries of present-day audiences and scholars).

Biranís superbly abandoned account of Rachmaninovís massive Sonata No 2 brought the evening to a stunning close, the pianist running the full gamut of keyboard fireworks in the grand tradition of a fledgling Horowitz.

Unfortunately the erudite and voluminous programme notes gave no indication to the uninitiated (virtually all of us) where the Medtner piece ended, leaving the audience floundering and the pianist stranded in silence, no indication of indifference, just bewilderment. More clear-cut printed communication would do the trick.




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