In earlier times, Ilana Vered would undoubtedly have been described as "a tigress of the keyboard," a once-popular appellation for such Amazons of the piano as Teresa Carreno, Fannie Bloomfield-Zisler and Olga Samaroff, among others. Women pianists of gentler persuasion, such as Dame Myra Hess and Rosalyn Tureck, usually escaped such zoological classification.
Vered fully earned the tigress title at her recital in Royce Hall at UCLA on Saturday night. She pounces on the piano like a bird of prey, and she is happiest when she all but picks it up in her teeth and shakes it. This requires strength and endurance to a staggering degree, and staggering is precisely the adjective for the Vered technique--boundless power and speed relentlessly applied.
These unabashed onslaughts are not easy on the ear, for the inevitable output is harsh, brassy, unvaried tone. Liszt's version of Paganini's 24th Caprice exemplified this to the greatest extent--a breathtaking display of virtuosity but with little musical appeal. But on the rare occasions when Vered is able to combine fluency with limpid grace, she is irresistible, as in three Etudes by Moszkowski.
She found moments of lyric repose in parts of Schumann's Sonata in F-sharp minor, played in its entirety save for a discreet cut in the last movement. She either underplayed or overplayed three Etudes by Chopin, and she unduly romanticized Haydn's Variations in F minor. Beethoven's "Eroica" Variations were driven furiously with little regard for basic style.