Classical Music Guide - Thursday, July 26, 2018 - Written by Donald Isler

Geoffrey Burleson

Geoffrey Burleson - IKIF

20th International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Hunter College
July 25th, 2018

Schubert: Sonata in A Minor, D. 845
Saint-Saens: Mazurka No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 66
Saint-Saens: Valse nonchalante, Op. 110
Saint-Saens: Etude en Forme de Valse, Op. 52, No. 6
Tania Léon: Ritual (1987)
Liszt: Dante Sonata

Geoffrey Burleson is known for his creative and stimulating programs. One of his current projects is recording all of the piano works of Saint-Saens. I remember a very fine program he played last year. But during the first half of his recital last night I had the feeling that I was not hearing him at his best. Some of it seemed a bit unsettled, as if his focus wasn't optimal.

The Schubert sonata, one of at least three the composer wrote in A Minor, is a wonderful work, and I was happy to hear it. In the first movement Burleson brought out the folksy feeling in the quasi-Ländler parts, as well as the more dramatic moments. The second movement had some charm, and the F Major trio of the third movement was sensitively played. The last movement, though, seemed very rushed. When one has the ability to play as fast as Mr. Burleson the music can sometimes come across as a big blur. Thus, musical pointing and punctuation are very important. I had somewhat the same feeling hearing him play Saint-Saens' Etude in the Form of a Waltz. I've played that piece, and yet I could not follow what was going on some of the time, so fast did it fly by.

I did enjoy the two other Saint-Saens works, which were new to me. The Mazurka had charm, elegance, and was quite lovely, though I could not discern in it a mazurka rhythm. (Is a French mazurka based on a different rhythm?) The Valse nonchalante had lovely washes of sound, and a Faure-ish ending.

The second half of the program was much more impressively played.

The Ritual of Tania Léon was new to me, so presumably one would get more out of repeated hearings. It started slowly, then became faster and more complicated as more and more material was added, and played off against what was already there.

Burleson's performance of Liszt's Dante Sonata was very fine, right from those alarming tritones at the beginning. There was power, sensitivity, nobility, and lovely shadings here.

Burleson played one encore, his own jazz arrangement, though I couldn't hear on what it was based. Terrifically complicated, it had all sorts of rhythms, snazzy charm, and great energy.

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