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APA presents Andrew Staupe - a technical wizard

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APA presents Andrew Staupe - a technical wizard

Andrew Staupe striking Villa-Lobos' final notes with his fist

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


. 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

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