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Music Reviews : Pianist Votapek at Loyola Marymount

February 29, 1988|Daniel Cariaga

Heroic in every sense, Ralph Votapek's latest Southern California recital, Friday night in Murphy Hall at Loyola Marymount University, should have been shared by thousands. But fewer than 100 connoisseurs were on hand for this program of music by Beethoven, Chopin, Falla, William Doerrfeld and Debussy.

The distinguished American pianist has been visiting here since he was a Naumburg winner--even before he won the very first Van Cliburn Competition in Fort Worth, in 1962. Now 48, Votapek retains his boyish earnestness and spectacular keyboard technique; to these he has added the perspectives of maturity and reflection, with no loss of passion.

What Votapek brought to Beethoven's "Tempest" Sonata, Chopin's E-major Scherzo and F-minor Ballade and Debussy's suite, "Pour le Piano," was authority, presence, an adamant differentiation between styles and unfeigned lyricism.

He dismissed the digital intricacies of Falla's Three Spanish Pieces (1908) insouciantly, then caressed the inner workings of these genuinely irresistible morceaux . He introduced young Doerrfeld's breezy, pattern-rich Toccata No. 2 with enthusiasm. Then, for encores, he conquered, very seductively, two Gershwin transcriptions by Earl Wild: "Lady Be Good" and "I Got Rhythm."

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