Fort Worth — The PianoTexas Festival opened Saturday evening with a recital by 2005 Cliburn Competition finalist Davide Cabassi, playing a Fazioli piano. He is one of several eminent pianists who will perform recitals and chamber music concerts as part of the annual festival, now in its 35th year. A preview of the festival by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs is available here.
This year’s festival focuses mainly but not exclusively on Robert Schumann and Brahms, and Cabassi took up that mantle for his performance Saturday. The first half included Schumann’s Kinderszenen, Op. 15, and his Carnaval, Op. 9, while the second half consisted of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
Cabassi’s playing ranged from simple and completely unadorned for the first piece in the Kinderszenen (“Scenes from Childhood”) to almost bombastic in the last movement of Pictures at an Exhibition, the famous “Great Gate of Kiev.” In between, he proved himself a stylistic chameleon, adapting instantly to the wide variety of moods and atmospheres in the 13 miniatures of the Kinderszenen and the 20 in Carnaval. In the Schumann, Cabassi was relatively physically undramatic, occasionally flashing a quick smile. In the Mussorgsky, however, his body language seemed almost choreographed, as he twice dropped his head between his arms during grand pauses.
Both Cabassi’s lyrical playing and his more technical efforts were consistently very good, if not always emotionally gripping. He dropped some notes here and there, but not enough to distract from the overall effect. This was a businesslike—but not workmanlike—recital. However, it also provided at least the third performance of Carnaval in the Metroplex within the last four months, and the second within the past week. (Conrad Tao performed the piece as part of the Soluna Festival last week in Dallas, and Alexandre Moutozkine performed it with Chamber Music International in Richardson in February.) It is a brilliant piece, centering around just four notes, A, E-flat, C, and B, which comprise, in German notation, a musical cryptogram of A-S-C-H, which had several significances for the young Schumann.
Cabassi is a versatile and interesting pianist who would certainly be worth additional hearings and deserves larger audiences than he had Saturday evening.
If you attend PianoTexas recitals at PepsiCo Recital Hall, be aware that the hall is apparently always as chilly as it was Saturday night. One young festival participant was attired in festive summer garb topped by a down jacket, and I envied her the jacket. A blazer or sweater and long pants are a must.
» Read our preview of PianoTexas, which continues with the following performances.
- 7:30pm June 10: Chamber Music Weekend with Adkins Quartet
- 7:30pm June 11: Chamber Music Weekend with Adkins Quartet
- 4pm June 12: Chamber Music Weekend with Adkins Quartet
- 7:30pm June 18: Joaquín Achúcarro
- 7:30pm June 19: Concerto Concert with winners of Young Artists Concerto Competition and the Fort Worth Symphony with Barry Douglas, conductor
- 7:30 p.m. June 25: Barry Douglas
- 4pm June 26: Joseph Kalichstein