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Music Review : Reveles Tunes In To Insight, Clarity

September 23, 1986|KENNETH HERMAN

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.

A suite of eight movements from Heitor Villa-Lobos' "Cirandas" (1926) was Reveles' sole accommodation to 20th-Century music, but it proved to be shrewd programming. The Brazilian composer's highly emotive character pieces, following the sophisticated salon tradition of Chabrier and Poulenc, touted ear-catching South American dance rhythms, jazzy syncopations, and colorful harmonic juxtapositions.

Although Reveles evidently relished these gregarious pieces, he never neglected the composer's careful architecture, nor did he skimp on the details of touch, release and subtle pedaling.

The evening's sole disappointment was Reveles' muted reading of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata. Although the familiar opening adagio could have been more subtle, more luminescent, the ensuing movements sounded overly deliberate, especially the allegretto, and the climaxes of the finale lacked conviction and digital strength.

With the installation of a new pipe organ last spring, this East County church inaugurated a concert series, of which Reveles' recital was the finale, and a second season will be announced soon, according to the church's music director, Kenneth Nielson. The favorable acoustics of the large, tastefully modern sanctuary make it a welcome addition to the local music scene.

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