Classical Music Guide Forums - Thursday, July 22, 2010 - Written by Donald Isler

Joaquín Achúcarro Recital - IKIF

Joaquín Achúcarro's recital was one of the events I was told not to miss, especially as I had not heard him before. Everyone spoke of him with great respect. And, indeed, he was received with special warmth by this evening's audience, which included such prominent pianists as Gary Graffman and Yefim Bronfman in addition to the many musicians of the Festival community, and other music lovers.

A vigorous white-haired Spanish gentleman who juggles teaching at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and in Italy, with his concert schedule, his career took off after he won the 1959 Liverpool International Competition and has taken him to, so far, 59 countries.

Mr. Achúcarro has a wonderful understanding of the Romantic idiom that includes an unfailingly beautiful tone, and a naturalness to his phrasing. One does not sit there wondering, as with some pianists "What does this mean?" or "What is he trying to say?" He makes everything clear.

Also, his is not an egotistical approach to performing, as is sometimes associated with this music. He does not seem to be out to impress us with how fast or loudly he can play, or how great he himself is. Rather, he is taking us on a trip, and showing us all sorts of lovely and impressive things along the way, so we can enjoy them with him.

There were many memorable moments in this recital, including particularly expressive playing in the posthumous variations, and real drama in the last section of the Symphonic Etudes.

Among the highlights of the second half of the program was the Barcarolle, which had a natural flow, yet also a different sound for each section of the boat's journey. The B minor Waltz was played with special sensitivity, charm and warmth. And the dramatic Scherzo was played with wonderful energy and sometimes, such as in a phrase which begins in E minor about two thirds through the work, great eloquence.

Three encores followed. The first was the Scriabin Nocturne for the Left Hand. It was exquisite, and I couldn't help but think about how rarely a pianist is called upon to play such filigree passages with the left hand.

Mr. Achúcarro next played Debussy's Clair de Lune, which was simply perfect. Then, as the audience wouldn't let him go yet, he concluded with a lovely reading of the Chopin E Flat Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2.

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