Mario Feninger is a pianist who is sparing with his public performances, but no matter when or what he plays, he can count on a large and friendly audience.
His recital in the Mark Taper Forum on Monday night was titled "Mostly Chopin," and that correctly described it. The minor exceptions to Chopin included an Adagio from an oboe concerto by Marcello, transcribed by J.S. Bach; "Three Impressionistic Pieces" and an octave etude by the pianist's mother, Teresa de Rogatis; three sonatas by Scarlatti, and the single encore, "The Nightingale," by Alabieff-Liszt.
Feninger commands a fluent keyboard style and musical attitudes based on the precepts of high Romanticism. He can coax an agreeable singing tone from a Baldwin piano in which the upper and the lower registers do not seem to belong to the same instrument, and he is adept at spinning out rippling runs and purling cadenzas.
Like all committed Romanticists, Feninger takes liberties with his music. He is not averse to twisting a phrase out of shape, or distorting a rhythm if that suits his notion. Sometimes the habit illuminates; more often, it distracts.