EL CAJON — No less a pianist than Franz Liszt moved from the concert stage to the clerical ranks of the Catholic church. University of San Diego music faculty member Nicolas Reveles reversed Abbe Liszt's progression, pursuing a musical career after taking his priestly vows. Reveles, who recently completed his doctorate at the Manhattan School of Music, gave ample proof of his musical calling Sunday night in a solo piano recital at Our Lady of Grace Church in El Cajon.
If his approach to the keyboard was less than heaven-storming in its brilliance, it never lacked insight, subtlety or clarity. Though these may appear to be rather academic virtues, Reveles also revealed a penchant for creating opulent, Romantic melody that was both elegant and emotionally rich.
It was not, however, until he played Chopin's "Polonaise-Fantasie," Op. 61, toward the end of Sunday's recital, that Reveles the melodist came to the forefront. His sympathy for the work's plangent, climactic themes was matched by a discerning pacing--he never played his hand too soon.
In his opening salvo, an early Haydn Sonata in C Major, Reveles manipulated the abundant playful contrasts almost to the point of mannerism. Fortunately, the sonata was an ideal vehicle to display his pliant and articulate technique, and he indulged the rococo rhetoric of the slow middle movement with operatic flair.