By Lawrence Budmen

The Miami International Piano Festival has produced some of the most impressive concerts of recent seasons. Dedicated to the discovery and nurturing of exceptionally gifted artists the Festival (under founder and director Giselle Brodsky) has presented many an impressive South Florid debut. Now some of those performances can be heard again on a new, made in Miami DVD production “Masters of the Keyboard – The Next Generation” on the VAI label (www.Vaimusic.com). 

This excellent studio production is introduced by University of Miami Music Professor and Festival Advisor Frank Cooper with typically erudite, insightful commentary. Interviews with the artists are interspersed throughout the video. These are particularly interesting. The artists speak of their passion for the music and offer a fascinating guide to their artistic approach to each score. They also speak candidly about the joys of music making.

It is the music that really makes this video special. One of the Festival’s particular joys has been the emergence of a spectacular group of Italian pianists – Pietro De Maria, Francesco Libetta, and Emanuele Arciuli. In the tradition of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Mauricio Pollini, these artists bring a lightness of pianistic touch, highly personal interpretive approach, and deeply probing musicality to every score they perform. In this production De Maria plays Scarlatti (the Sonata in D Minor, K.1) with the kind of scintillating virtuosity and buoyant musicality that are his trademarks. His version of Franz Liszt’s Reminiscences of Don Juan is brilliantly virtuosic. De Maria also finds the charm in this score’s Mozartean quotations. Here is a performance that both thunders and sparkles at one and the same type. Several seasons ago De Maria gave an effervescent performance of Saint-Saens’s Piano Concerto No.2 at the opening night concert of Festival Miami. He may well be the world’s most underrated keyboard artist. This video production is a vivid reminder of his special brand of music making.

American pianist Nicholas Angelich displays sterling technique and patrician musicianship in two of Rachmaninoff’s Etudes Tableaux. In Brahms’s Ballade in D Minor Angelich’s thunderous octaves can not disguise his romantic bent. His approach is deeply rooted in 19th century pianistic traditions. Angelich’s performances are strongly conceived and musically scrupulous. 

Adam Neiman has played thrilling Chopin, Schumann, and Prokofiev at recent Festival performances. A pianist in the Grand Manner Neiman offers poetic Chopin (the beautiful Barcarolle in F-Sharp Major, Opus 60 and the awesome Etude in A Minor, Opus 25, No.11). With Neiman technique is a given. He imbues every score with bold, visionary artistic imagination. His affinity for the romantic repertoire is even more evident in his own Concert Study in F-Sharp Major. It is not exactly accidental that this score is in the same key as Chopin’s famous Barcarolle. Neiman is a composer of real talent and creative facility. He dares to write passionate melodies that resonate in the memory. Neiman is a superb musician – a master craftsman with impeccable artistic taste. 

The video production is highly accomplished. The camera work (under director Angel Hernandez) strongly enhances the performances. Indeed these performances seem to leap off the screen. The Miami International Piano Festival is one of the gems of South Florida’s cultural life. “Masters of the Keyboard – The Next Generation” is a worthy memento of festivals past and a harbinger of great performances to come. 

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