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Music Review

Pianist Wilson Plays His Ace: Barber's Sonata

November 11, 1998|John Henken

It is hard to make much of an impression in the crowded young pianist market. But Terrence Wilson played an untrumpable ace on his first local program Sunday afternoon at Pepperdine University's Raitt Recital Hall: a fiery yet deeply thoughtful knockout account of the Opus 26 Sonata by Samuel Barber.

Once championed by no less than Vladimir Horowitz, this instant mid-century classic has fallen into comparative neglect. It is craggier than what most listeners expect from Barber and dauntingly difficult, but the 23-year-old New Yorker treated its challenges as expressive assets rather than as gymnastic tests, working with controlled energy to appreciable musical ends.

Wilson is obviously comfortable with risk, and he ventured a wide range of articulation and color throughout his compact but comprehensively telling agenda. He brings power and agility to the table, if not invariable accuracy, and indicates persuasive instincts as well as solid training.

All of this was exaggerated to the point of mannerism in Busoni's adaptation of the great Chaconne from Bach's D-minor Violin Partita, Wilson's nervy opening statement. Though encouraged by the arranger, theatrical accents and fussy timbral variation threatened continuity and clarity.

A tendency to live for the moment was also apparent in Robert Schumann's Humoreske, but much more viable there. There was also a certain amount of rhetorical hyperbole and oversimplification in Wilson's ruthless definition of musical foreground and background, but with an alleviating passion and immediacy.

Gently pastel accounts of Debussy's preludes "Danseuses de Delphes" and "Voiles" completed the recital.

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