A dazzling recital Misha Dacic plays Rachmaninoff with soul,
admired by LAWRENCE BUDMEN


Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was a product of the golden age of Russian romanticism. He studied piano with Alexander Siloti (who later taught at New York's Julliard School) and composition with Alexander Taneyev and Anton Arensky (a pupil of Tchaikovsky). Rachmaninoff achieved international success as a pianist, conductor, and composer. Following the 1917 Revolution, Rachmaninoff left Russia for the West. (Beverly Hills, California and Switzerland would become his primary residences.) Although his performing career would prosper, exile did not fuel Rachmaninoff's creative energies. He composed only five works -- all major scores -- between 1918 and 1943. Yet his music has become a pillar of the pianistic repertoire. (His Piano Concerto No 3 has become a standard competition piece.) Concert performances and recordings abound, but all too often Rachmaninoff's music is played in a mechanical, note perfect, superficial manner. When a pianist brings depth and creative imagination to Rachmaninoff's scores, there is cause for celebration. Misha Dacic did that and more at his recital on 6 December 2003 at the Steinway Concert Hall in Coral Gables, Florida, USA, presented by Patrons of Exceptional Artists.

Dacic hails from the former Yugoslavia. He is a formidable piano virtuoso. (He counts Kemal Gekic, Lazar Berman -- one of Russia's great pianists -- and Frank Cooper among his teachers.) Dacic possesses a remarkable technique. He truly commands the keyboard. His technical facility is astounding but, more importantly, he is a sensitive, poetic artist.

His Rachmaninoff group brought some of the most purely beautiful pianism in recent seasons. Dacic offered the Romance in F Minor Op 10 No 6 and two examples of the nearly lost art of the piano transcription -- The Little Island (arranged by the octogenarian pianist Earl Wild) and Melody (transcribed by the brilliant Russian virtuoso Arcadi Volodos). Dacic produced a series of pianistic pastels like a flowing multi-colored fountain. Every detail was exquisitely brought to life. Dacic played this music with idiomatic romanticism and true Russian soul! Rarely have the melancholy and nostalgia of Rachmaninoff's music been brought to life with such emotional fervor and beauty!

Dacic also offered music by Rachmaninoff's contemporary Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951). Medtner was also an unabashed romantic. (At the Moscow Conservatory Medtner shares gold plaques of honor with Rachmaninoff and Scriabin.) Unlike Rachmaninoff, Medtner did not find great success outside of Russia although he made a series of remarkable piano recordings in London in the late 1940s. The Sonata-Reminiscenza in A Minor Op 38 No 1 is one of the last scores Medtner composed before leaving Russia in 1921. Here Russian yearning is tempered by the grand romantic manner of Brahms and Schumann. Dacic's impassioned performance of this wonderful score was magnificent! He imbued the tender opening and closing pages with the most exquisite pianistic waves of light and shadow. The sheer beauty of his tone was extraordinary! In the stormy central section, the power of Dacic's cascading octaves held the audience spellbound. (The bright, superior acoustics of the Steinway Hall enhanced his exceptional performance.)

The Elegie Harmonique Op 61 by Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760-1812) was a genuine novelty and a delightful surprise -- a richly romantic, tempest tossed musical vignette. Here was an important revival of a work by a composer best known for his lighter scores. This beautiful keyboard work anticipates the music of Brahms and Dvorák. All this music needs is a virtuoso with technique to burn and a grand array of tonal colors. Dacic did not disappoint. The kaleidoscopic sweep of his playing was awesome! Claude Debussy's Hommage a Rameau is a delicate impressionistic gem that pays tribute to an eighteenth century French master. Dacic brought glowing tonal hues and delicate shading to this minor masterwork. Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No 19 in D Minor (in a brilliant transcription by Vladimir Horowitz no less) was pure pianistic fireworks. Dacic brought flaming virtuosity and tremendous energy to this dazzling tour-de-force. As an encore he offered a sensitive, beautifully articulated rendering of a movement from Schumann's Symphonic-Etudes.

Misha Dacic offered a challenging, musically stimulating program of rarely played keyboard scores. This brilliant display of his pianistic powers was unforgettable! With boldly imaginative artists like Dacic, the art of the piano has a great future. A dazzling recital!


Copyright © 15 December 2003 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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