Three months, three premieres, and three potential winners capped Sunday afternoon's appearance of DC-born Sara Daneshpour. It's become a real challenge to distinguish, so far, the caliber of piano playing of the three APA pianists heard to date over this fall season. In the pantheon of greats, near-greats, journeymen, garden varieties and also-rans, we've heard nothing but greats in Claire Huangci, Sean Chen and Daneshpour: absolute masters of technical virtuosity. They always hit their notes. It's a job of picking nits to describe just how they strike them, in relation to the surrounding ones, whether chords or passage work, to reveal the most musical artistry.
As usual, the first half featured Daneshpour in a solo recital. In the second she was joined by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra in a concerto, this one Camille Saint-Saëns' No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22, the most famous of his five numbered ones. Tucson Symphony music director George Hanson successfully subbed for the ICO's Kirk Trevor. They opened with yet another Rossini overture, this one to his 1813 opera L'Italiana in Algeri. Featuring prominent oboe and piccolo solos, Rossini always manages to add musical weight to his tuneful broth, Hanson and his players nicely sharing it all.
Joining them for the Saint-Saëns, Daneshpour danced over the keys like a ballerina, giving us a solo intro to the orchestra's two "Don Giovanni" chords. The most popular 2nd movement is right out of Mendelssohn, with our soloist making those elfin-like, rhythmic leaps as though she owned them. Throughout the concerto, Daneshpour's legato astonished with expressiveness -- infinite shades of loud and soft, all in perfect control.
Her playing style in the concerto had been well defined in her preceding recital, in which she opened with Schumann's very early Variations on the Name "ABEGG," Op. 1 (1830), a piece strongly anticipating his better known Papillions, Op. 2 and his even better known Carnaval, Op. 9. Here is where she first displayed her amazing legato, with perfect pedal control, the rapid figurations all in shades of delicacy, yet all audible.
Next came "El amor y la muerte," one of six selections from Enrique Granados' Goyescas, Op. 11 (1914). This somewhat continues the mood of the Schumann Variations, with of course a more modernist flavor, Daneshpour equally doing her thing.
She closed with a piano sonata famous -- should I say infamous -- for its awesome technical challenges. Yes, what else -- Prokofiev's No. 7 in B-flat, Op. 83, a hurdle any aspiring keyboard artist wants and needs to tackle. Here Daneshpour's technical brilliance came to the fore, nowhere more than in the final movement's unending, unsettling chord sequence, alternating between her hands at a breakneck pace. Unable to tell if she hit all the right notes in this devilishly dissonant display, I give her the benefit of the doubt. Dec. 2; Indiana History Center