Pianist Timothy Andres’ Insight and Virtuosity

Pianist Timothy Andres (photo courtesy of Ming)

Pianist Timothy Andres (photo courtesy of Mingzhe Wang)

Rarely does a formidable program of new music leave the listener eager for more. But Timothy Andres’ Saturday (Sept. 22) afternoon recital at the Carlsbad Music Festival made me want to hear a lot more of this astute 27-year-old pianist and composer.

In a cunning juxtaposition of  four substantial, recent piano compositions with four concise selections from Robert Schumann’s “Forest Scenes,” Andres demonstrated the continuity of keyboard invention over two centuries, and at the same time suggested how prescient old Schumann’s explorations were.

Of course none of this musicological insight would have unfolded without Andres’ fleet technique, subtle shadings, and evident passion for the music. He opened his recital at the Carlsbad Village Theatre with his own “At the River,” completed in 2011, a toccata-fantasy that quotes the familiar hymn tune in stealthful snatches only after an extended introduction of cascading arabesques. It appears that eveyone must pay the minimalist piper these days.

But unlike Charles Ives, whose off-kilter vocal parody of “Shall We Gather at the River” diminished the mid-19th century hymn, Andres unearthed in this hymn a sense of mystic longing and wonder that suffused his whole piece and came together beautifully in the almost whispered chorale at the work’s conclusion.

A more expansive, rhapsodic offering, Ingram Marshall’s “Authentic Presence” from 2001, called for Lisztian technical prowess, yet appeared to be equally indebted to Schumann’s bipolar emotional extremes.

In 2011, Andres’ friend Ted Hearne wrote “Parlor Diplomacy” for him, a five-movement suite in  more spartan idiom, although the first movement flaunted the performer’s showmanship in the guise of an extended fanfare. Much of the rest of the work gave the impression of a classic Dutch still life, a kind of sonic repose that clearly satisfied the pianist’s introspective inclinations.

Fortunately Hearne’s fourth movement provoked a welcome contrast with an extravagant, even cocky, bass line that launched some punch-drunk variations that careened in contrapuntal delirium.

Martin Suckling’s short, single movement, “Mein Herz ist zu voll,”  unleashed a flutter of slender themes in an aphoristic setting that reflected the thematic parries of the Robert Schumann “Vogel als Prophet” that preceded it on the program. Each of Andres’ Schumann selections interacted so harmoniously with his new music, it made me wonder why more performers do not adopt such winsome programming options.

Andres ended his recital with Schumann’s “Abschied” (“farewell”), an apt conclusion to his emotionally rewarding keyboard journey.

The Carlsbad Music Festival concludes Sunday, September 23, with several additional concerts, including the Calder Quartet at the Village Theatre at 2:30 p.m.



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