Pianist Andrew Staupe may be among the most gifted with
technical acumen of any pianist I can recall hearing live. He can play anything
and can put shape and dynamic nuance to it as though child's play. His final
recital piece on Sunday was the 16-minute Rudepoêma
(1926) by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), said by some
to be the most difficult piano piece in the literature.
It called for every pianistic structural device on the 88
keys of which one can conceive: delicately fleet passage work, rapid chromatic
scales, rapid chromatic chords, a rapid glissando, a rapid hand crossing always
landing perfectly, pearly soft to thunderingly loud contrasts. It was a 16-minute endurance test--for both Staupe and his
For all his skilled perorations, I heard very little music.
It was as though Villa-Lobos had strung together every virtuosic structure he
could think of and wow the audience with notes, notes and more notes. Well the
audience wasn't that wowed, the applause portending intermission being quite
tepid. This was Villa-Lobos attempting to outdo Liszt, and succeeding.
Staupe proved the latter by previously including Liszt's Rigoletto Paraphrase, which included
Verdi's well known fourth-act Quartet from that 1850
opera. Again we have much virtuoso display, but the Lisztian harmonies were at
least some we felt at home with, perhaps because we've heard them often enough,
whereas Villa-Lobos seldom gets performed in the states. Villa-Lobos' "tension"
is instantly boring, so there is no "resolution" to speak of. Just notes.
Our tall Minnesotan began his recital with a
too-little-performed piece: Mendelssohn's Fantasy in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 28,
easily in league with, and somewhat resembling many
Beethoven piano sonatas. Here Mendelssohn's virtuosity serves the music and makes music with every bar. Except for a
tendency to overpedal, Staupe's command of the three-movement work was
Next came a five-minute performance debut -- possibly a first
for this series -- Eridanus, based on
Greek myths, written in 2012 and attended by Staupe's friend, Christopher Walczak
Walczak. Cast in a rather conservative idiom, Walczak's piece was over before I could
come to grips with it.
The best recital offerings were the Mendelssohn and Debussy's
La Terrasse des audiences du clair de
lune, the latter of which Staupe played perfectly, his pedaling nicely
fitting the "pearls through haze" evocation surely meant by the composer.
As usual, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and its music
director Kirk Trevor joined Staupe following the break, and opened with Grieg's
too-little-presented treasure (which Trevor made up for as he and his forces
just played it on their Oct. 29 Masterworks Series): Two Elegiac Melodies for
string orchestra, Op. 34 (1881). Lasting less than ten minutes, it is a
smile-through-tears forerunner to the Norwegian composer's Holberg Suite, Op. 40, written four years later. Trevor played this
wistful piece better in October.
Saving the best till last, Staupe joined the ICO in Mozart's
Piano Concerto No. 27 in
B-flat, K. 595 -- his last. Here Staupe finally lifted his foot more off the
pedal and showed a nice legato throughout, with lovely nuances of dynamics.
Though starting with a strict tempo, Staupe eased off his rigidity as the
movement progressed, excelling in the supreme, Larghetto-marked slow movement
as well as anybody, present-day or in my early life.
The lower rating of this event comes from Staupe's choice of
"show-off" programming and his overpedaling, before the Mozart. Jan. 27; Indiana History Center