Classical Music Guide - Thursday, July 20, 2017 - Written by Donald Isler

Alon Goldstein

19th International Keyboard Institute and Festival at Hunter College
July 20, 2017

Scarlatti: Four Sonatas
Schubert: Fantasy in C Major, D. 760 “Wanderer”
Liszt: Paraphrase on “Miserere” from Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”, S. 433
Bartok: Suite, Op. 14
Debusy: Masques
D’un cahier d’esquisses
L’isle joyeuse

Alon Goldstein is a very likeable musical personality. He bows in a modest way, and likes to make comments about the composers, and the music he plays, always concluding by thanking his audience yet again for being there. They respond to him warmly. His performance style is not at all flashy, but he’s an excellent pianist who plays a very enjoyable, and satisfying program.

The first Scarlatti Sonata, in C Minor (Mr. Goldstein says the composer called them “exercises”), was played sotto voce, and sounded very intimate, sometimes with a bell-like purity. This was followed by the jaunty C Major Sonata, where he showed his fine musicianship by varying the expression whenever a phrase, or section repeated. The minuet-like Sonata in G Major had a droll charm, as well as delicacy. The Scarlatti group ended with the amazingly adventurous E Major Sonata, which traverses a remarkable number of keys before returning to its “home base” of E Major.

Mr. Goldstein’s performance of the Wanderer Fantasy reminded me a bit of Robert Goldsand, not because he sounded like Mr. Goldsand, but because, like Mr. Goldsand, he goes his own way interpretively, not adhering to any preconceived notions of how a work should sound. The question is ”Does his way ‘work?’” It was quite different from other versions I’ve liked, beginning, for example with a not very fast first movement tempo, ending with a last movement which started at quite a clip, and having some nice, individual touches, such as a staccato left hand accompaniment in the third movement which I don’t remember other pianists bringing out. The answer for me was “Yes, indeed!” it ‘worked’; I liked this interpretation.

Liszt’s Paraphrase on the “Miserere” was dark and turbulent in the early A Minor section, then gorgeous and virtuosic when it shifted to A Major.

His playing of the Bartok Suite also had individual ideas, such as a pokey and whimsical mood in the first movement, an accusatory feeling in the second, a maniacal outburst in the middle of the third movement, and a fourth movement which sounded both nostalgic and surreal, and had a beautiful ending.

Though he is not a “colorist” in the usual sense, Mr. Goldstein captures moods very well, so his Debussy playing was effective. “Masques’’ was invigorating, thoughtful and exotic. “D’un cahier d’esquisses” was dream-like, and had a great calm. “L’isle joyeuse” was intense, fanciful, and ended with a massive sound.

Mr. Goldstein played one encore, the Second Argentinean Dance of Ginastera. Sounding sentimental, and as if from far away, it was gorgeous!

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