Michael Davidman, Pianist, at Greenwich House Music School

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Donald Isler
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Michael Davidman, Pianist, at Greenwich House Music School

Post by Donald Isler » Sat Jun 18, 2022 3:27 pm

Michael Davidman, Pianist
Greenwich House Music School
New York
June 14th, 2022

Frédéric Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 35
Michael Davidman: The Lady from the Sea (after the play by the same name, by Henrik Ibsen)
César Franck: Prélude, Choral et Fugue, FWV 21
Francois Couperin: Le Tic-Toc-Choc ou Les maillotins
Francis Poulenc: Presto in B-Flat Major, FP 70
Francis Poulenc: Melancolie, FP 105
Maurice Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin
VI. Toccata

Michael Davidman is one of the most exciting young pianists I’ve heard. By now I’ve had the pleasure more than a few times. Particularly memorable was a sensational performance he gave of the Liszt E-Flat Concerto seven years ago.

Twenty years ago, as a five year old, he had his first piano lessons at the Greenwich House Music School with Michiyo Morikawa. He later studied for ten years with Efrem Briskin at Manhattan School of Music. After that, he went on to get his Bachelor’s degree at the Curtis Institute, where he worked with Robert McDonald and Ford Mylius Lallerstadt, and then his Master’s at Juilliard, where his teachers were Jerome Lowenthal and Stephen Hough. He is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at the International Center for Music in Kansas City with Stanislav Ioudenich. He has won many awards, and given numerous solo, chamber music, and concerto performances, both here and in Europe.

Last Tuesday, he returned to the Greenwich House School and played a demanding program that featured standard repertoire, pieces which are rarely heard, and one work of his own.

Michael Davidman came out on stage exuding confidence and immediately threw himself into the first movement of the Chopin Second Sonata. It was powerful, but one was soon aware that he was always listening, and never functioning on “auto-pilot” as there were interesting shadings and other fine effects, such as the way he came into a beautiful “landing” of the second theme in the recapitulation. The second movement was both dramatic and playful, with interesting pacing, and moments of intimacy. The third movement featured the steady, but inexorable march, a beautiful statement of the D-Flat Major theme, more intensity in the second half of that section, and extra octaves at the end, to increase the feeling of menace. The last movement, surely the most unusual, almost atonal work which Chopin created, featured swirls, surging, and very effective dynamics.

Davidman’s piece, The Lady from the Sea, is an extended work which reminded this listener of various genres. It sounded of both Impressionistic yet also Romantic influences. One section sounded like it came from a popular song with sophisticated harmonies, and another had a lovely scherzando feeling to it. There was much virtuosic playing and what also seemed like virtuoso page-turning (tapping?!) on the tablet containing the score, which the pianist played from.

Franck’s Prelude, Choral and Fugue may be that composer’s most popular work for solo piano, and especially as it is not over-programmed (as are some of the great works of Beethoven and Chopin, for instance) I’m always glad to hear it again. Davidman’s opening of the Prelude was thoughtful, and the “questioning” chordal motive was dramatic. He started the Choral slowly and expansively, with an effective use of pacing to increase the drama. The theme of the Fugue was first presented in a recitativo-like atmosphere. Later on the pace was much faster, the playing muscular and the notes whizzed by. The last section was very intense, as one heard, simultaneously, the themes of all three movements in a supercharged environment.

The Couperin work was fast and high-spirited, yet played with elegance.

The Poulenc Presto was really “super-presto,” yet one could hear everything clearly because of Davidman’s terrific articulation.

Poulenc’s Melancolie was charming and sensitive, but didn’t seem too depressed (!).

The last work on the printed program was the Toccata from Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin. It was vigorous, powerful, exciting, yet also dreamy, and played with great flair.

Michael Davidman played one encore, Los Requiebros, from the Goyescas, of Granados. It had an Iberian charm and sophistication to it, and lovely melodies with filigree work that became incredibly brilliant and ornate. It was terrific!

Donald Isler
Donald Isler

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