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Sara Daneshpour at the American Art Museum

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • July 13, 2015

Recitals by the pianist Sara Daneshpour have become a highlight of the American Art Museum’s annual Steinway Series, and her probing and often fiery performance Sunday afternoon showed why. Daneshpour’s near-impeccable technique is impressive enough, but in a program that ranged from the musings of Robert Schumann to the eruptive violence of Sergei Prokofiev, Daneshpour also brought an intensity and seriousness of purpose that had you at the edge of your seat.

Sergei ProkofievThe afternoon opened quietly, with two one-movement sonatas by the baroque composer Domenico Scarlatti. Scarlatti cranked out over 500 of these, most as quirky as they are brief, but Daneshpour turned in poised and thoughtful readings that played down their more mercurial qualities. They were followed by Schumann’s “Variations on the Name Abegg,” Op. 1. Written when the composer was just 20, not yet crazy, and apparently stricken with love, it is a charming and eager-to-please work with few depths to plumb. Daneshpour played it with affection, which is maybe all you can ask.

But Daneshpour quickly shifted into deeper, darker waters with Frédéric Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35. Famous for its instantly recognizable funeral march, it is a work of heart-wrenching beauty, tenderness and despair. Bent almost motionless over the keyboard, Daneshpour turned in a performance as molten as lava, letting the tension brood and build, until the volcanic release of the final movement.

Four of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s graceful, painterly “Etudes-Tableaux” followed, but it was Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7 in B-flat , Op. 83 that stole the show. Written in 1942, it is a biting and often brutal work that seems to treat the piano like a piece of large artillery, savage in its power and teetering — like the war that inspired it — on the edge of insanity. Daneshpour gave it a furious, all-claws-bared performance, as sharp and dangerous as Prokofiev could have wished.

Daneshpour ended the afternoon with a perfectly chosen encore, the spare, brief “Für Alina” by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, which seemed to add a grace note of hope to Prokofiev’s anguish.


Posted on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 04:49PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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