American pianist Soheil Nasseri played a solo recital last week featuring beloved masterpieces, though it could have been heard to disadvantage by two ancillary issues. In Manhattan's Merkin Hall, the audience baked and fanned, so Mr. Nasseri must have broiled under the stage lights. He sopped and mopped his brow to the unsettling bemusement of a few. The hellish temperature exacerbated the foul stench of irresponsible personal hygiene, and it wasn't about deodorant. As such a subject is taboo, Merkin might consider incorporating incense, or sulphur. A hot and smelly night was the set for an uncomfortably long evening.
Mr. Nasseri has an affable presence, and his youthfulness gracefully shaves at least fifteen years from his age, though he also has a confusing formality that can be stiff. It is unclear if he was conservatory trained, but, under the tutelage of titan pianist-pedagogues Jerome Lowenthal, Claude Frank and Karl Uhlrich Schnabel, his playing seems to beg to compete with his institutionally educated peers, instead of transcending them. Juggling the hats of scholar, cavalier and adolescent made for a diffuse and at times exasperating impression.
The first movement of Schubert's A minor Sonata D. 784 was structured in twos, in number of notes per motifs and number of bars per phrase. The Andante's interest was in the voicing, but not the voice leading. The Allegro vivace was grey.
Schumann's Carnaval was strictured, unimaginative in conception, variety and coloration. Played with attentive care, nevertheless a lack of fanciful abandon made it sound uncertain.
Beethoven's D major Sonata, Op. 10 No. 3 had the most genuine enthusiasm and intelligence of the program, but Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in the solo transcription was too dry to be ecstatic, joyous or risqué.
Bernstein's The Masque from his 2nd Symphony, The Age of Anxiety, was a compelling encore, though the pianist’s virtuosity was so easy that it seemed careless; a summation of the evening were his spoken syllabifications to mimic the rhythmic sounds of the solo percussion interjections, his imitation of the woodblocks chanting "Pako-Pako" being particularly charmless.
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