NEIMAN PLAYS SIZZLING PROKOFIEV
By Lawrence Budmen
When Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) composed his "Piano Sonata in D Minor," Opus 14, No.2, he was still a student at the Moscow Conservatory and the "bad boy of the Russian avant-garde." At the Conservatory Prokofiev had run afoul of Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov, his principle teachers, over his modernist tendencies. The young composer-pianist found an outlet in the Evenings for New Music concert series at which progressive student composers (among them Nikolai Miaskovsky and Gavriil Popov) premiered their newest creations without the official sanction of the Conservatory establishment. The Second Sonata was written in 1912 and premiered at the avant-garde concert series in January, 1914. The sonata is a major work that combines the young composer's acerbic wit and uncompromising harmonic astringency with a lyrical bent and cross-cultural echoes of Far Eastern musical modes. Prokofiev was a formidable piano virtuoso and this score requires a musician with stellar technique, a palette of glowing pianistic colors, and deeply perceptive interpretive ideas. The young American pianist Adam Neiman is one of the most gifted artists of his generation. He gave a superb performance of this
technically demanding work on January 19 at Northern Trust Auditorium in Aventura, Florida, USA - presented by Patrons of Exceptional Artists.
Neiman's scintillating tonal colors made the sonata's first movement Allegro ma non troppo (with its Eastern gong effects) sound like a veritable pianistic orchestra. His brilliant rhythmic dexterity and idiomatic sense of Prokofiev's "Music of New Russia" captured the sarcasm and biting wit of the Scherzo: Allegro marcato. In his introductory remarks Neiman correctly stated that the Andante is the score's artistic heart. He views this rhapsodic movement as a portrait of a windswept Siberia - at once beautiful and desolate. Neiman played this rapt, moving section with rapturous beauty. His glistening tone and absolute pianistic control brought forth the poetic essence of this music. The pianist's dazzling rendition of the Vivace finale was a pianistic tour de force. Beneath the rapid fire bravura of Neiman's playing, a surging lyrical line informed the great arc of Prokofiev's brilliant creation. A 20th century masterpiece in a bracing, dynamic performance!
Neiman's Chopin was just as idiomatic and even more beautiful. He offered the "Grande Valse in A-flat Major," Op.42; the familiar "Valse in C-sharp Minor," Op 64, No.2; the "Mazurka in A Minor," Op.17, No.14; and the great "Ballade in F Minor" Op. 52. Neiman evoked all the dramatic turbulence, elegance, and aristocratic majesty that personify Chopin's unique contribution to the keyboard repertoire. Neiman's sense of the music's underlying pulse was impeccable. Rarely have the Polish dance rhythms been so finely delineated. His singing tone adorned every bar with ardor - pianistic bel canto. Neiman did not ignore the dark side of Chopin's writing. The raging drama of the Ballade was stunningly projected. Neiman's marvelous affinity for the Romantic tradition of the music was deeply impressive. In nearly five decades of concert going this writer has rarely heard more exquisite, sensitively projected Chopin. Great music making!
Neiman opened the program with one of Schubert's late masterpieces - the "Piano Sonata in A Minor," Opus posthumous 143. The mystery of the sonata's opening chords has rarely been so magical! Neiman's ability to relate the inner voices to the grand musical line was awesome! The heartfelt lyricism of the second movement seemed born on an ocean of glorious tone. Adam's sparkling performance of the finale was the essence of Vienesse charm. His pianistic control and subtle sense of chiaroscuro were impressive. Here was a performance that remained with the listener long after the music had concluded. Schubert playing of such delicacy and refinement is exceedingly rare.
As an encore Neiman offered one of his own compositions - "Vision," a skillfully crafted, impressionistic mist of flowing colors. The composer performed his attractive work con amore. Adam Neiman is a musician of stellar intellect and brilliant technical endowment. He does not merely play notes. Neiman caresses the keyboard and projects the composers' voices. A true artist!