Abbey Simon may be one of the most admirable practitioners of piano-playing on the concert stage today. But as he has proved--at least to one listener--a number of times over, to make a list of his virtues is not necessarily to love his playing.
At his most recent Southern California visit, Tuesday night in that wonderful, old, acoustically reassuring auditorium at Chapman College in downtown Orange, Simon again showed the virtuosity, musicianship, sense of proportion and good taste that have long made him a paragon. He may not have caused hearts to swell, but he certainly displayed an abundant expertise at the keyboard.
And at programming. To begin with Beethoven's oft-neglected, petite G-major Sonata, Opus 14, No. 2, was a charming idea, handsomely realized in a pristine--though hardly delicate--reading full of clever details. To end with three excerpts from Ravel's "Miroirs" was just good, old-fashioned showmanship, beautifully executed--the best part of the evening.
Strong music fell between. Three of Mendelssohn's Songs Without Words--familiar ones in E, F-sharp minor and C--tended to be blunt of statement, but otherwise direct and undistorted.