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MUSIC REVIEWS : Canadian Pianist Lortie Returns to Pasadena

December 12, 1987|DANIEL CARIAGA

After an impressive debut appearance here a year ago this month, the young Canadian pianist Louis Lortie returned to Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, on Thursday night and impressed all over again.

This time, the 28-year old virtuoso offered a Dionysian/Apollonian mix of a program, the first half devoted to Chopin, the second to Ravel. Lortie brought to both parts a sense of musical order, stylistic conviction and a high level of achieved and unflappable technique.

His strongest attribute would seem to be an original musical mind, one which seeks its own well-considered solutions to interpretive problems. There were many times in the course of this performance when those solutions could be questioned or disparaged, yet in no moment did their apparent logic or sincerity falter. As a recitalist, Lortie is in that most elite group: musical companions of sufficient personality and intellect to hold the sophisticated listener's interest for an entire evening.

Still, it must be said that this program never reached an emotional temperature of memorable heat. A certain distancing and coolness marked even the cris de coeur in Chopin's climactic moments.

The ultimate engagement of thought and feeling proved the only lack in the thoughtfully arranged Chopin group: Two Nocturnes of Opus 55, the B-flat-minor Scherzo, the "Fantaisie-Impromptu" and the "Polonaise-Fantaisie" in A-flat. Except that he often produces an edgy and hard sound at the instrument, and that his musical statements lean more to the matter-of-fact than the heroic, Lortie's Chopin is admirable.

His playing of Ravel achieved a plateau of clarity and imperturbability; nothing, least of all the composer's myriad technical demands, impeded this probing, fluid, analytical approach.

Lortie examined the "Pavane pour une infante defunte" with the affection and objectivity of a jeweler regarding a diamond; he made "Jeux d'eau" sound easy; he brought elegance and leanness of mind to each contrasting facet of "Le Tombeau de Couperin."

For encores, Lortie offered two more gems of Ravel: "Alborada del gracioso" and"Le jardin feerique."

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