Classical Music Guide - Friday, July 25, 2014 - Written by Donald Isler

Massimiliano Ferrati

Haydn: Andante and Variations in F Minor, Hob. XVII:6
Federico Gardella: Invenzione del Margine (2014) World Premiere
(dedicated to Massimiliano Ferrati)
Beethoven: Sonata No. 21 in C Major (“Waldstein”)
Chopin: Andante Spianato e Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op. 22
Daniele Bravi: Solo (2008-11)
Prokofiev: Sonata No. 7 in B-Flat Major, Op. 83

Massimiliano Ferrati has a very likable musical personality. He plays with passion, commitment and ideas, and he always produces a beautiful tone. Most of this recital was very fine, indeed, and his audience listened, and reacted with great enthusiasm.

He opened with the Haydn Andante and Variations, which is sometimes rather blandly played. Mr. Ferrati’s performance had the best of both classical and romantic elements. Against a rather strict rhythm he did everything he could with expressive possibilities, such as playing repeats with a different inflection, bringing out changes of color and interesting modulations, showing off the rhythm of the syncopated variation, and playing on a large, dramatic scale.

The Gardella Invenzione was a highly kinetic work, and seemed to consist of several motives, one of which hit the keyboard running and headed for the hills (actually, the opposite ends of the instrument), a second having a soft splash of notes in tone clusters, and the third being simply a low note or two.

Mr. Ferrati had a bright and buoyant approach to the first movement of the Waldstein Sonata, with a lovely musical lead in to the second theme, big swirly arpeggios in the development, and a dramatic “drumroll” leading into the recapitulation. The main theme of the last movement was beautifully floated and had just the right amount of pedal, fortunately not imitating many pianists who, forgetting that the pedal on Beethoven’s piano sustained much less sound, create musical “mud” there. He went for the jugular in the C Minor section, and had a great “massing of forces” leading into the coda, which was wonderfully fast.

The Andante Spianato was one of the high points of the program. The tone was gorgeous, there were numerous subtleties of sound, phrasing and rubato, and it was played lovingly, and with great spirit. The introduction to the Polonaise was appropriately fast and lively but there were some problems with focus and memory in the Polonaise. Also, the music sometimes seemed to plow on a bit long without a change of sound. Still, there were some wonderful ideas and moments, and the end was strong.

The Bravi work, Solo, was a conversation between several different motives with interesting pedal effects, which eventually slowed, giving an almost mesmerizing effect, repeating over and over, I believe, the notes E, D, C#, E#, G#, F#.

The first movement of Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata marched vigorously ahead, except in reflective moments, and was finely executed with impressive clarity. The main theme of the second movement was beautifully played, and the soaring middle section was very dramatic and effective. Mr. Ferrati launched into a propulsive reading of the last movement, briefly had some memory issues, then recovered, staged a finely gauged, but eventually huge crescendo near the conclusion, and ended in brilliant fashion. The audience reacted with cheers, and a standing ovation.

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