Pity the public oversight that allowed Panayis Lyras to appear before a mere 32 auditors Friday at his recital in Murphy Hall, Loyola Marymount University. Nevertheless, the playing seemed to be the thing for the prize-winning pianist, not the size of his audience.
A silver medalist at the 1981 Van Cliburn Competition, the young Greek proved himself a cultivator of the big sounds and grand effects to which his heavyweight program testified. Even more to the point, he is a stylist who fully reveals each composer's character traits and draws the listener into each of those discrete realms.
Thus, Haydn's C-major Sonata came across with its playfulness and drollery intact, becoming an animated monologue of rollicking elegance. And while to some extent Lyras seemed over-concentrated on the physical properties of Beethoven's "Appassionata" instead of their motivating force, he did bring the well-worn piece to a shudderingly visceral finale.
For a Liszt sampling from "Annees de pelerinage," he found both the repose for autumnal melancholy as well as the power for fire-and-brimstone exhortations, while Debussy's "L'Isle joyeuse" emerged heightened in coloristic brilliance. For sharp contrast there were Rachmaninoff etudes and preludes, their essence in swaggering crescendoes and sensual lyricism.