Concert Reviews

“Enormous freshness, vitality and poetry” 
Chicago Tribune

“The finest shadings and the most sensitive use of rubato…his totally controlled performance was charged with the improvisatory daring that is the life’s blood of Chopin’s music.” 
Indianapolis Star

“Variety of nuance at his fingertips” 
Erie Daily Times

“Impassioned…bringing tears to many eyes and the artist back to the stage three times after uproarious applause.” 
San Diego Union-Tribune

Anthony Padilla, pianist 
Merkin Concert Hall 
December 5, 2000

Anthony Padilla is the recipient of the Nathan Wedeen Management Award, the Cascade Festival Award, and the WQXR Prize. As top prize winner of the 2000 Concert Artists Guild Competition, Mr. Padilla was presented in his New York Recital Debut as the latest plume in their chapeau. Padilla’s approach to music making is rather sui-generis; that he graduated from the Eastman School of Music would seem the merest of formalities. He is a strong-willed, steel-fingered tornado; he plays the piano with absolute authority and gives new meaning to the idea of “interpretation” to the extent that the U.S. Patent Office might well grant him a number. Nobody could copy him…

Franck’s Prelude, Fugue, and Variation, Op. 18 (arr. Bauer) opened the way for the evening’s lavish musical menu. Padilla gave a thoughtful and lovely performance of this rich music, taking care to delineate the many lines of melody within while unifying all into a luscious whole. This work is clothed in velvet and inhabits a sphere of sensibility far-removed from the prosaic — pure poetry. Padilla’s gentle and ingratiating performance…allowed the music to speak for itself…

Mr. Padilla remained at the keyboard unapplauded. Apparently, the audience didn’t know that the Franck was over. This was a serendipitous oversight as no one was prepared for the surprise of pelting showers ablaze with gold that erupted in Padilla’s celebration of Bach’s Sinfonia in D from Cantata BWV29 (arr. Kempff). This piece is most familiar to us as the Prelude to Bach’s Partita in E for unaccompanied violin; indeed, Bach got considerable mileage out of it -? his own transcription for solo keyboard is sketchy and slim. Kempff’s arrangement is a miracle of inspired craft. Padilla exulted in its perpetually driving energy. He unleashed resources of enormous power resulting in the musical analogue of a triumphant “Hallelujah!”

Ending the first half of the program was Bach’s Overture in the French Manner, BWV 831. This grand suite of eleven parts was one of the few works that Bach had published during his lifetime. Among his most extended works for solo keyboard, Bach spent enormous care in its intricate composition. It stands as the consummate statement of all he had assimilated from the French. (In a similar vein, the “Italian Concerto” sums up what he had gleaned from the Italians). This Overture in the French Manner is not frequently performed. A thorny work for the keyboard player, it also requires a deep sympathy with the French musical idiom of the 17th and 18th centuries. Mr. Padilla is one of those rare performers to grasp it fully and thus realize it into an experience worth sharing. Not in any way a piece that “plays itself”, I have often noted the pronounced sado-masochistic streak from those performers who insist upon cranking it out by hook or by crook. In fact, if most musically aware people were told that the Overture in the French Manner were to be performed on a recital, they had make dinner plans instead. Mr. Padilla’s mastery of ornamentation was total. All les agrements, and there are plenty, emerged from the underlying musical tissue in an organic and expressive way. Every dance, for the eleven parts are mostly inspired by French dances, bespoke Padillaís exquisite understanding of and delight in the distinct mood and cadence of each. In that he is such the masterful exponent of this music and his performance so compelling, one could only wonder…As the ultimate compliment to Mr. Padilla’s performance, it was so brilliant and convincing that…It was outright fabulous!

The Andante spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante, Op.22 of Chopin followed. Padilla spun out the lovely Andante as a beautiful swan might stretch forth its neck…

Just as one thought that limits had been met, Mr. Padilla exceeded them in Copland’s El Salon Mexico (arr. Bernstein). An uncannily apt arrangement of Copland’s well-known orchestral score, Mr. Padilla brought his considerable energy and power to its performance. Mr. Padilla excelled at exercising tensile strength in passages of perpetual rhythmic drive. It was a performance of vivid engagement. The audience went wild when he flew off the piano bench while sounding the final crash that ends the piece.

One rarely hears Liszt’s Etude “La Campanella” played with the sheer perfection that Padilla afforded it as his encore. Faultless, transcendent, ravishing, exciting -? Mr. Padilla certainly merits a patent on this score!

Darrell Rosenbluth 
New York Concert Review, Winter, 2001,Vol. 8, No. 1