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MUSIC REVIEW

Pianist Svrcek Ably Expands Repertoire in Varied Program

September 18, 1997|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Because Susan Svrcek has probed so carefully into, and brought so many facets out of, the massive repertory for the solo piano, one comes to her recitals with high expectations: new thrills, rediscovered gems, unknown masterpieces.

The resourceful pianist opened a fourth season for the Piano Spheres series at Neighborhood Church in Pasadena Tuesday night and did not disappoint. Even for her watchful and appreciative devotees, her palette and her spectrum continue to expand.

What proved most memorable were the oldest works on this varied agenda, Cesar Franck's "Prelude, Fugue et Variation" (1862) for organ--in the Harold Bauer transcription--and Bartok's "Improvisations," Opus 20, each given its full panoply of colors, textures, dynamics and emotional detailing. The Franck pieces emerged ravishing in sound, exquisite in nuance, yet clear-eyed to a fault. At the end of the evening, a portion of them became an unscheduled encore.

In the "Improvisations" from 1920, Bartok delivered, as always, richness, economy, density and resonance of feeling--the most music in the tightest space. In her performance, overflowing in virtues, Svrcek left nothing out.

Genuine substance marked the contrasting works given before intermission (and after Franck), Webern's Variations, Opus 27, and Iannis Xenakis' "Mists" (1980), the first, content-heavy, articulate but super-economical; the latter, broad-stroked, heaven-storming and moody--Svrcek gave each composer his due.

She even found pianistic virtues in Keith Kothman's formulaic character pieces, "Surface Inventions," six neo-serial vignettes of no particular distinction or charm. But she could not disguise their true identity: wallpaper music of 1994.

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