Pianist Dick brings natural insight to Key Pianists opener

Fri Oct 11, 2019 at 12:00 pm
James Dick performed a recital for the Key Pianists series Thursday night at Weill Recital Hall.

Classical musicians read the symbols on the page and turn them into vibrations in real time, putting a composer’s instructions in to action. If they interpret anything, it’s usually themselves through someone else’s structure and form. 

What the best performances achieve is the opposite of interpretation; the musician becomes as close a thing to the composer as is possible. And that is what pianist James Dick achieved at the heights of his concert Thursday night at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall.

In fact, there were many, sustained heights. This was one of those rare experience that scaled to a plateau and remained there in marvelous repose. 

The event was the first of the season for Terry Eder’s fascinating Key Pianists series, which presents musicians with strong individual stamps whose careers take them off the common performance track. Dick has a long and substantial list of accomplishments as a performer and teacher away from New York City. And being away from this dense, agitated, complicated environment may have been a key to producing the unique satisfactions of this evening.

He played a program that showed both excellent judgment—Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, and a piece from a contemporary American composer—and excellent, expressive musicianship.

But judgment was at the heart of everything—how fast should this go, how loud should this be. That boiled down to two or three things—tempos that were on the slower side of the markings, a moderate dynamic range, and a rubato that was so fine and musically correct that it seemed not to even exist.

The way Dick played was not only technically fine— especially in Beethoven’s Op. 126 Bagatelles and Schumann’s Carnaval—but brought onecloser to what one imagined the composers heard in their own music. The limited set of tools utilized produced playing that was so natural that it seemed the most ordinary, obvious thing in the world.

In the Bagatelles every memory of that music was wiped away by the sensation Dick provided that this was what Beethoven heard when he sat at his own piano, improvising. Likewise, the “Florestan” melody in Carnaval emerged from the music as if stepping quietly through an open doorway—as it would have in Schumann’s own mind—like noticing the encompassing world had changed without a sign or gesture.

This was possible because of the inherent modesty of Dick’s playing. 

Only Haydn’s extroverted Sonata in B minor No. 47, was not on the same level. But even here Dick was excellent with the rhythmic de- and reconstruction of the opening, putting it right at the edge of disintegration without ever losing touch with the line’s direction. But the more romantic music was the real universe of this performance. 

The modern piece was The Birth of Shiva. In Dan Welcher’s “Fantasy for Solo Piano,”  the composer adapts passages from his piano concerto, Shiva’s Drum. This was fantastic music, full of color, fire, dazzling and also deep, compelling and unsettling as is Shiva, both creator and destroyer of worlds.

The only thing that kept that Fantasy from reaching the rare level of the Beethoven and Schumann pieces was its newness—here one was hearing what the music was while also hearing what Dick did with it. 

But it was the familiarity with masterpieces, and Dick’s natural insight and eloquence that provided the rare experience of hearing a musician deliver the Bagatelles and Carnaval with such honesty and artistic truth.

Pianist Ann Schein plays the next Key Pianists concert 7:30 p.m. March 11. facebook.com/KeyPianists

4 Responses to “Pianist Dick brings natural insight to Key Pianists opener”

  1. Posted Oct 11, 2019 at 6:11 pm by Margie Seeger

    Ah, if only I could have been there to see and hear Jimmy last evening at Carnegie Hall. I’ve been privileged to know him and to see his beautiful performances on many occasions at his very own Festival Institute at Round Top in Texas. He is a treasure on many levels — not only a gifted pianist, but a true visionary and an inspiring mentor to so many young talented musicians from around the world.

  2. Posted Oct 11, 2019 at 8:06 pm by Arlene Weidberg

    Dear James, Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! A most memorable recital! All the best always, Arlene Weidberg, Edward Weidberg and Ira Weidberg

  3. Posted Oct 13, 2019 at 2:27 pm by Bravo Bravo Bravo

    Only the best from the best

  4. Posted Oct 13, 2019 at 4:31 pm by Gayle Laminack

    So very proud to hear your performance at Carnegie Hall was stellar! Only you can brilliantly interpret the original intention of each composer with such technique and heartfelt feeling. Wish I could have been there to witness your amazing artistry in NYC, just like we have seen it at Festival Hill. Bravo, Jimmy! Kudos!

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