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Low-Profile Champion of the Piano

*** 1/2 "Ralph Votapek: Music by Ginastera, Poulenc, Szymanowski and Piazzolla" (Ivory Classics)

June 28, 1998|Daniel Cariaga

In the 36 years since he became the first winner of the then-fledgling Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Ralph Votapek, at that time already a regular winner of prestigious contests, has kept his place as keyboard champion, albeit a low-profile one. Recorded last year, when he was 58, this brilliant program confirms Votapek's keyboard mastery and musical aristocracy: He makes all this music seem as important as it is. Ginastera's irrepressible First Sonata is reinstated as a 20th century classic; Poulenc's complete (eight) Nocturnes prove thrilling in their pungency, character and sweep; Szymanowski's "Masques" exert their convoluted siren calls; and two tangos of Piazzolla become, in this company, bright and timely.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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