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Music Review

Pianist Vogt Goes From Mild to Intense

February 12, 2000|JOHN HENKEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Intermission means many things to concert-goers, but Thursday evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion it seemed pivotal for the performer.

Lars Vogt did not actually change into tights and a cape during the interval, but the transformation from his mild-mannered pianism of the first half into the supercharged heroics of the second was nonetheless electrifyingly complete.

Granted, the first-half agenda, Brahms' Opus 10 set of Four Ballades and Liszt's Ballade No. 2 in B minor, offered considerable interpretive leeway.

Vogt approached them as a musical counter-puncher, rolling with the flow of the more aggressive ideas and applying his most intense efforts to the more passive passages.

His elegantly introspective ministrations left both works in the gentle throes of terminal refinement.

But where these pieces do allow shy rumination, there is no gainsaying the dynamism of Beethoven's "Appassionata" Sonata, No. 23 in F minor. As that wise philosopher Yoda once said in a rather different context, "Do or do not; there is no try."

Vogt did, succeeding admirably in evoking the familiar furies, the murmurous discontent always boiling over into open revolt. He also brought forth important personal dimensions in both sound and argument, and worked wonderfully contrasting sunny glory with the central variations.

The kicker on this compact program of otherwise prime Romanticism was the 1996 Theme with Variations by Tatyana Komarova.

It held its own in this august company, with the wry lyric grace and sassy swing of an atonal Gershwin emerging from its reflective, plastic theme. Vogt invited the composer, his wife, onstage to share the applause.

In encore, Vogt encapsulated the dualities of his performance.

The manic jazz energies of a fugue by Friedrich Gulda opposed the tender consolations of a Chopin nocturne, each brilliantly re-created with sovereign clarity of technique and conviction.

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