Pianist Gutierrez Interprets Brahms Concerto At The Mann

Posted: July 22, 1992

With a self-deprecation typical of the man, Brahms once described his second piano concerto as a "tiny little concerto . . ."

Artists are usually the last to accurately assess their work, but what a misstatement. There's nothing tiny about the Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, Op. 83 - a long and mighty, powerfully intimate and tranquil work.

Wending through its challenges - and distinctly varied changes of mood - is not a task for anyone less than a virtuoso. And yet you'd be surprised at how many big-time pianists stride across this score as if it were a Wild West bronco rather than a Kentucky thoroughbred.

Horacio Gutierrez rode the steed so skillfully Monday night at the Mann Music Center that we might have been listening to Brahms himself ruminating on ideas about love and power. The interpretation, unified and fluent, was all the lovelier for surviving the acoustical challenges of the outdoor setting, where so many of its nuances could have been lost.

One of Gutierrez's gifts is his ability for tremendous variation in keyboard sonority. Using color, which on the piano is really a matter of finger and arm weight, Gutierrez gave the first movement's weightier assertions a steel-and-thunder quality, shifting with ease into the composer's dazzling poetic figurations.

In the finale, the pianist's fingers had an incomparable lightness that summoned the music's joy and playfulness.

Soloists should be good listeners. Many aren't. Gutierrez listens exceedingly well to his orchestral colleagues, and Monday night's performance was a superb example of such communication.

The Andante third movement, an extended solo for cello, was beautiful for its ardor and sensitivity; it was played by assistant principal Lloyd Smith. Principal Nolan Miller took Brahms' incomparable horn solos.

Conducting with fluency all evening was Mann artistic director Charles Dutoit.

The concert opened with Berlioz' warmly celebratory Overture to Beatrice et Benedict, then moved into Franck's long and sentimental Symphony in D Minor. This was an Ormandy specialty, and Dutoit and the ensemble seemed to be evoking some of Ormandy's stylistic nostalgia. It was an attractive

interpretation - gracious where it needed to be, but accentuating with vigor the many spots where Franck tried so hard to be a Beethoven.

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