Classical Music Guide - Sunday, July 28, 2019 - Written by Donald Isler

Massimiliano Ferrati

July 27th, 2019

Schubert: Moment Musical in C Major, Op. 94, No. 1
Beethoven: Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53 - "Waldstein"
Bach: Prelude and Fugue in G-Sharp Minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1
Schubert: Moment Musical in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 94, No. 4
Chopin: Polonaise in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 26, No. 1
Ravel: Ondine from Gaspard de la nuit
Schubert: Moment Musical in A-Flat Major, Op. 94, No. 6
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23
Chopin: Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22
Chopin: Polonaise in A-Flat Major, Op. 53

Does this program make any sense to you? Various Moments Musicaux of Schubert, strewn about amidst works of Beethoven, Chopin and even Ravel? On paper it didn't work for me, either until I heard Massimiliano Ferrati play it. In the first half of the program, which includes the first six works above, he connected the first two without a pause, and then did the same with the last four, going directly from one into the next via tonic, dominant, and mediant relationships. It all worked very effectively, musically, harmonically and dramatically.

Something else occurred to me during this recital, though it may seem unrelated: The memory of Guiomar Novaes's last recital (also at Hunter College) in 1972. Why would the playing of an elderly female Brazilian pianist come to mind when hearing a male Italian pianist who's in his prime? This: Unlike with some pianists who play the instrument flawlessly, but don't seem to "say anything special", a Novaes recital would have some very "special", and memorable musical moments. Such is also the case with a Ferrati recital.

The first Schubert Moment Musical, which began the program, can be played in an earth-bound, heavy manner, but Ferrati, showing from the start his innate musicality, tossed the first phrase into the air. The section with rests was beautifully played, as was the melody that starts in G Major. Everything was just right: pauses, timing, and inflection.

As freely as he played the Schubert, so strictly (rightly so) did he play the more classically oriented first movement of the Waldstein sonata. The second movement was on the fast side, and here he encountered the first of a few memory slips which, however, he always overcame. The theme of the third movement was lovely, and followed by the turbulent first section in triplets. The C Minor section was combative, and the arpeggiation on the way back to the main theme was played in a mysterious manner. The coda was very fast and the glissandi very well played.

The Bach Prelude was contemplative and the Fugue was quiet, deadly serious, emotional, and deep.

The second Moment Musical was played in a meaningfully pokey manner, and the D-Flat Major theme was particularly beautiful.

The C-Sharp Minor Polonaise was wonderful! I was reminded of Cortot, not because Ferrati sounds like Cortot, but because, like the great French pianist, there was never a dull, flat-footed, or inexpressive moment; something was always "happening" musically. Among the features of this performance, following the dramatic beginning, were the beautiful transition into the D-Flat Major section, and the duet between the voices in each hand.

Ferrati's performance of Ravel's Ondine, which "grew out" of the soft ending of the Polonaise, was one of the high points of the recital. This is the kind of piece where an artistic imagination like Ferrati's can do wonders! There was a magical atmosphere, with the right hand "splashing about", and fantastical images in sound. The climactic moment in the middle was enhanced by his leaning on the bass, and quite an effect was made at the end where the bass arpeggios were allowed to evaporate into the final chord. Loud applause followed!

The theme of the A-Flat Major Moment Musical which began the second half sounded gracious, with the phrases acting as if in question and answer mode. There was some gorgeous playing in the D-Flat Major middle section.

Mr. Ferrati began the Chopin G Minor Ballade in a quieter manner than one often hears it, thoughtful, even meditative. This performance included many individual touches, and the pianist showed that he certainly knows when to "raise the temperature" of the music, becoming faster and louder. The recitativo-like section was very effectively done, and the coda was fast, and brilliantly played.

The melody of the Andante Spianato had elegance, and later on there was a very interesting interplay of the voices. The Polonaise was stately, but had charm, with some phrases being tossed into the air. The C Minor section was strong.

The main theme of the concluding A-Flat Major Polonaise was jaunty, but not too loud, By contrast, the E Major chords WERE loud, and the octaves which followed were fast, and became louder when they moved from E Major to E-Flat Major. The "wandering" section, which leads back to the main theme, was lovely and searching. After a slowdown before the main theme, there was a powerful end.

A seemingly tired Mr. Ferrati again had some memory issues in the encore, which was the second Moment Musical of Op. 94. And yet, and yet...............….There were again "special" memorable musical moments. These included a fantastically effective, quiet transition into the F-Sharp Minor section, and a wonderful, pianissimo end.

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