Saturday, November 12, 2011 JCA Delivers With Plano Concert, by Robert W. Plyler
Once again, the Jamestown Concert Association has brought a brilliant concert pianist, to perform in Jamestown.
Friday evening, Roberto Plano dazzled an enthusiastic audience at St.Luke's Episcopal Church with a program so varied and so spectacular, it was difficult to believe that it could all be performed by one man.
Plano has performed in Jamestown before, nine years ago, when he had recently won the Cleveland International Piano Competition. At that time, his English was so limited that he could only speak a few words to the audience. This time he spoke quite a bit, explaining piano techniques, interesting facts about the composers, and the intent of the compositions.
He began with a transcription by Franz Liszt of Beethoven's ''Symphony No. 2 in D Major, S464.'' Before beginning, Plano explained that before the invention of records and other music reproduction, even professional musicians might go their entire lives without hearing the music of great composers, unless they could afford a ticket to a live performance - especially for music which was created for a full orchestra.
To help more people to hear Beethoven's music, Liszt arranged much of it, including his famously huge symphonies, to be performed upon a single piano. To hear the various modes and motifs which run throughout the music, all performed by Plano, was a delicious treat. It lacked the sound colors of the full orchestra, but the skeleton of the music was very much there.
Following intermission, he returned with four short works by Claude Debussy. The pianist explained the Debussy liked to compose with a visual image in mind - often a well-known painting. He would give these short works a name, but he would put it in parentheses, at the end of the piece, in the hope that the audience would form its own visual images, then would compare them with the image he himself had used.
The performed pieces were ''Des Pas sur le Neige,'' or ''Footprints in the snow,'' ''La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin,'' or ''The Girl with Flaxen Hair,'' ''La Cathedrale Egloutie,'' or ''The Sunken Cathedral,'' and ''L'Isle Joyeuse,'' or ''The Isle of the Blessed.''
His ability to perform a vast curtain of sound, from which rich melodies stood out, sometimes faintly, sometimes boldly, was thrilling, and won much applause.
The final work, before two encores, was ''Reminiscences de Norma, R. 133,'' once again by Liszt. This time, he explained that the work was created by Liszt, using melodies and harmonies from the opera ''Norma,'' by Bellini. He explained that Liszt enjoyed developing new piano techniques, to enlarge the language of sounds which he could employ. In this case, he was using what has been called ''the Third Arm,'' in which both hands are doing elaborate arpeggios, up and down the whole width of the keyboard, while the thumbs play out a lovely, legato melody, as they pass the middle keys
At times his hands moved so quickly, one could only see a blur above the piano keys. It was stunning technique and beautifully evocative and emotional, at the same time. All in all, it was a thrilling evening of music.
The next concert in the JCA series will be Nov. 30 at the Reg Lenna Civic Center, when Symphony Syracuse will perform a holiday pops concert.