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MUSIC REVIEW : Lympany Opens Ambassador's 20th Season

October 07, 1994|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

On the road roughly since the mid-1940s, pianist Moura Lympany, now a genial 78, still tours. Why? Perhaps because audiences continue to appreciate her playing.

The sympathetic listeners crowded into Ambassador Auditorium Wednesday night for the first event of the hall's 20th anniversary season certainly appreciated the veteran musician's fluid and communicative pianism--and expressed their approbation.

Lympany may not retain strongly the impeccable technique and hot-blooded Romanticism of her own heyday. But she still produces a limpid tone, leaps all mechanical hurdles without apparent strain and--most important--makes beautiful and elegant music all the while. If she were Japanese, her countrymen would dub her a National Living Treasure. Since she is English, the queen has made her a Dame of the British Empire.

Greatness is in deeds, not titles, of course, and Lympany did her admirable deeds in behalf of Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Liszt and Chopin. In the process, she lived up to our memories of her legend.

In a recital officially part of the continuing UK/LA Festival of British Arts, Lympany achieved the most touching playing in the second half, wherein she offered music of aqueous textures and titles--"Reflets dans l'eau," "L'isle joyeuse," "Les jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este," for instance.

Smoothly flowing and imperturbable, her performances became as prismatic and detailed as possible, but without emphasizing, or even revealing, the means by which such effortlessness is accomplished. Perhaps the high point of this accomplishment came in two Rachmaninoff Preludes from Opus 32, those in G (No. 5) and B minor (No. 10), both examples of the most sensitive kind of tone-painting and detail-illumination.

Despite a few bad moments--a handful of exposed cracks and misstrikes--the first half went similarly well.

After a tentative run-through of Beethoven's 32 Variations in C minor, Mozart's K. 330 Sonata moved along in a pleasant and mundane manner until magic struck in the middle of the slow movement, and the minor-section Trio opened up a world of color and feeling other Mozarteans simply do not find in this work.

Then, Book II of Brahms' "Paganini" Variations unearthed a secret sometimes forgotten: that the musical content of this set is more interesting than the required technical tests. There is a subtext here, and it is both emotional and abstractly narrative. Lympany passed the tests while ignoring them and gave us the Brahms we know, the one who sings and feels.

At the end of the evening, Dame Moura offered encores: two pieces by Chopin, the "Harp" and "Black Key" Etudes.

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