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Music Reviews : Pianist Peter Mack

May 11, 1987|ALBERT GOLDBERG

Usually they come from the Soviet Union or some equally productive musical nation, these fire-snorting young pianists, but this one was born in Dublin, Ireland.

His name is Peter Mack, his age is 26, and he was the first Irish citizen to win the diploma silver medal of the Guildhall School of Music in London. He has covered a lot of territory since then, and in Ramo Auditorium at Caltech on Saturday night he seemed obviously to be upward bound. Remember the name; it is apt to turn up often.

Mack is one of those lucky ones born with a completely balanced set of talents. He has perfect piano hands, his technique is all but infallible, he has boundless temperament, style and taste, and, above all, he communicates directly and often powerfully. In all capacities he is indefatigable. Haydn sonatas can be a bore, but not the Beethovenish No. 62 in E-flat, as played by Mack in an open, vigorous manner devoid of preciousness and constantly brushed with humor. Mack is sensitive to every kind of nuance, which he always applies naturally, never superficially.

He made Beethoven's "Waldstein" Sonata constantly engrossing, personalized but not distorted, dashing but not sacrificed to bravura.

The pianist's evocative sense of drama and atmosphere vivified the two surviving movements, "Presentiment" and "Death," of Janacek's Sonata portraying the death of a student in a riot in Brno in 1905, while agitating for the establishment of a university.

Uninhibited bravura, always musically directed, characterized four "Etudes Tableaux" from Rachmaninoff's Opus 19, and the same composer's fiendish transcription of Kreisler's "Liebesfreud." Equally volcanic was the first encore, Scriabin's Etude in D-sharp minor.

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