Fort Worth — Joseph Kalichstein, who performed the final PianoTexas recital of 2016, is a musician of impeccable credentials. A faculty member at the Juilliard School, he is also a member of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson piano trio. The recital was sparsely attended, perhaps because it fell at the end of a piano-heavy week in Fort Worth that included the Cliburn Amateur competition. Still, it attracted piano faculty from area universities and other local piano aficionados, out to hear one of classical music’s most respected pianists.
Kalichstein took the stage in a black waistcoat and shirtsleeves for the mid-afternoon recital, and this air of relative informality was echoed in his playing. He explained the context of each piece, continuing with a pedagogical approach also adopted by some of his colleagues on this year’s PianoTexas roster. His love for the music shined through in both his remarks and his playing, despite a substantial number of missed and dropped notes.
Despite this year’s focus on the music of Brahms and Schumann, Kalichstein’s programming was more varied, but varied with a purpose. He performed Chopin’s Ballade No. 2 in F Major, Op. 38, and pointed out that this piece was dedicated to Schumann. While Schumann frequently dedicated compositions to his friends, Chopin did so only rarely. Then he performed Schumann’s Kreisleriana, which the composer dedicated to Chopin, though Chopin is said not to have admired it.
Kalichstein asserted that the Kreisleriana, with its many contrasts of character, reflected Schumann’s own increasing mental instability and his possible bipolarity. Be this as it may, Kalichstein’s playing certainly emphasized the shifts in mood. Despite the missed notes and possible interpretive quibbles, Sunday’s performance was electrifying music-making.
After intermission, Kalichstein chose to go in a slightly different direction with Mendelssohn’s Fantasy in F-sharp Minor, Op. 28. Here, Kalichstein again missed quite a few notes, and fortissimos were occasionally too bold on the Shigeru Kawai piano.
Afterward, though, it was back to Brahms, for the second performance of the 16 Variations on a Theme of Schumann, Op. 9 at PianoTexas in less than a week. Here, Kalichstein’s lyrical passages in particular were lush and lovely.
Rounding out the printed program were two of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances; Kalichstein observed that Brahms initially wrote the 20 dances for piano four hands, then transcribed the first 10 for piano solo. Kalichstein thus played his own transcription of dance No. 11, and Brahms’s of dance No. 1. Then Kalichstein slowed down the mood with an encore of a lyrical Brahms waltz.
Kalichstein’s playing reminds me of that friend you love but wouldn’t ever want as a roommate: charming and energetic, but a bit too untidy.
Many thanks to PianoTexas for yet another year of top-flight music and hospitality. This festival is an under recognized part of the Fort Worth music scene—in the summer, when many local musicians scatter to cooler climes, PianoTexas is an opportunity for those of us remaining in Texas to hear some fantastic music.
» Our other reviews of the 2016 PianoTexas Festival: