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MUSIC REVIEW : Boriskin at Bing Theater in First of Three Piano Recitals

October 26, 1994|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Michael Boriskin speaks well, plays the piano well and returned to Southern California this week with a fine concept: a three-recital survey of 20th-Century piano music, to be spread out during the 1994-95 Monday Evening Concerts season.

Heard at the first installment, Monday night in Leo S. Bing Theater at the County Museum of Art, Boriskin's achievement did not attain the level of his ambition. A program of music by Witold Lutoslawski, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, George Perle and Ravel--half of which the youngish New Yorker had played here previously--often fell flat.

What was missing was color, variety and panache, not necessarily in that order.

Boriskin's palette seems monochromatic, his dynamic resources limited, his imagination not fully operative. One could admire all this music for its bright invention, but not the narrow range of its execution.

What the pianist played best, Ravel's "Tombeau de Couperin," indicated the parameters of his musical/technical arsenal. Boriskin gets around the keyboard easily, but fails to produce the sound-differentiations and nuances one expects in this repertoire. His softest playing lacks delicacy, just as his loudest lacks weight. This wondrous suite became neutral ground, mechanically a field of mezzo-forte.

Pleasing homages to Chopin and Debussy began each half of this agenda, first in two Etudes Lutoslawski wrote in 1941 (down payment on a set the Polish composer never completed, Boriskin told his sparse audience), then in Perle's characterful "Six New Etudes" of 1984. Boriskin also exhumed three handsome pieces by Cowell, played efficiently but without passion.

At the program's center was Harrison's cherishable Suite for Piano (1943), which had been given its world premiere at Evenings on the Roof, precursor of Monday Evening Concerts, half a century ago.

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