Benefit Concert for Haiti
Xu Hui, piano; Frank Lévy, piano; Andy McCullough, tenor
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
February 22, 2010
In the wake of Haiti’s disastrous earthquake, it is heartening to see numerous concerts by musicians joining forces to raise funds, and a recital by Xu Hui and Frank Lévy was among them. Though the audience was small, the spirit of giving was palpable.
Opening with the four-hand work, En Bateau from Debussy’s Petite Suite, the duo gave a gently lilting—if off-the-cuff—reading. Xu Hui continued in a meditative vein with Liszt’s Transcendental Etude No. 9, Ricordanza. It was refreshing to hear this work alone, as a special homage or remembrance, rather than as part of a barrage of blockbuster etudes. Xu Hui gave the work the sensitivity and patient lyricism it needs.
The programming of Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel raised expectations that the evening would officially “set sail,” but tonal beauty and polish took precedence over drama here. Ondine’s vexation was subdued, and even the nightmarish visage of Scarbo took on a silky veneer. Xu Hui has tremendous potential if she widens her range a bit. To close the first half, Andy McCullough sang An American Hymn, an appropriately nostalgic song by Lee Holdridge (b. 1944, Port-Au-Prince), with Xu Hui at the piano. Though a lovely gesture, it effectively underscored the absence of other composers born in—or with connections to—Haiti; there are several other composers that could have been included to enhance the evening’s theme.
Frank Lévy’s portion of the program opened with Scarlatti’s Sonata, L. 457 in C Major, thoughtfully wrought, even if pedaling became tricky with such a resonant piano. Schubert’s Four Impromptus, Op. 90 enjoyed the command of a mature master with a marvelous ability to bend a phrase at just the right time. Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann, commendably performed, elicited an encore of Chopin’s Nocturne in D-flat, Op. 27, No. 1, which was played with breathtaking delicacy. The evening was capped off with a four-hand encore: Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance in E minor from his Opus 72.
-Rorianne Schrade for New York Concert Review; New York, NY