in: Reviews

October 14, 2009

Piano Master Misha Dichter Astounds at Boston Conservatory

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The matchless earthborn voice of Misha Dichter astounded an audience at Boston Conservatory’s Seully Hall, Tuesday, October 13. It was a welcome if not bold opening of the 2009 Piano Masters Series.

Dichter’s is a voice that resonates through fields of rich earthly tones, a voice shaped like those infinitely sized and often highly polished masses of rock properly called “boulders.” And just as it is known how boulders are carried away from their parent rock by natural forces, so, too, was it made known during the evening how, through the remarkable innate abilities of pianist Misha Dichter, the master compositions of Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert, Bartók and Liszt were carried away from their parent creators — and brought to us, some 200 very lucky listeners in attendance, most of us finding ourselves deeply moved.

Misha Dichter caused Brahms’ Two Ballades from op. 10 (the first in D minor and second in D major) to act like those boulders making their way downstream in fast-moving water. Under Dichter’s hands the Brahms, it might even be said, was really swimming in rapids, so fast were the tempos and powerful were his Brahmsian iterations. Toward the end of the second ballade a very noticeable edginess surfaced when Dichter had the quickly moving short staccato motives chisel away at slower moving sonorities, eventually bringing the latter to rest.

Still more rapids were to come. And there was no let up in sight. In fact, only the quickest breath could have been taken between each of Beethoven’s Six Bagatelles op.126. It became immediately apparent that dwelling between movements or even on this or that moment within a movement remained outside Dichter’s fast-moving fields. Seizing the moment, or, more accurately, seizing one moment after the next, he pressed on, even in the andante-marked pieces, stirring in them a boldly beautiful life through thickly rounded harmonies nesting beneath melodies shaped with piercing accents. Several of these piercing accents actually felt like the real thing—stinging pain.

Back to the really fast speeds, it was in the fourth, the B minor bagatelle marked presto, where Dichter forged an effect not unlike raging white-water torrents angling around jutting mountainsides, not at all the usual halting, obstacle-ridden interpretations too often heard.

Dichter’s down-to-earth voice pronounced Schubert’s Sonata in a minor op.143 with simplicity and forthrightness, no engineered gestures or feigned emotions in view. Nor was evenness in fast arpeggios and scalar passages his objective, but rather natural physical movements of the hands awash with muscular piano reverberation.

The it-all-happened-so-fast-I-think-I-missed-it velocities in the last movement marked allegro vivace of the Schubert seemed to pick up yet more speed in the Liszt Funerailles (from Harmonies poétiques et religeuses), Valse-Impromptu in A- flat and Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 (Rakóczy March) climaxing in an avalanche of Lisztian bravura and a mountain of Steinway sound.

La lugubre gondola No. 2 (Funeral Gondola), also of Liszt, 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs of Bartók, and a Scriabin encore completed Dichter’s awe-evoking recital in Boston, his first after a 15-year absence. Who would have ever dreamed that this master of the piano had had a serious bout with Dupuytren’s Disease, undergone surgery in recent years, only to rebound and play as he did, delivering a rock-solid, brilliantly bold and down-to-earth performance of some of the most difficult piano pieces in existence?

David Patterson, Professor of Music and Chairman of the Department at U. Mass Boston for the past 15 years, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award in Teaching and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. Also a composer, he lives in Watertown.

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