Darrett Zusko Recital @ WMCT reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Thursday, February 10, 2011. Walter Hall, Toronto.

Darrett Zusko has an impressive technique. He tested it successfully this afternoon against the merciless complexities of three Études by Franz Liszt.  Mr. Zusko’s playing of Schumann’s 30 minute Fantasie in C major, Op. 17, showed his  stamina, and that he has something to say about the Romantic style of passion.

Mr. Zusko’s approach to Schumann’s opening phrase, known as ‘Clara’s theme,’ showed strong left hand colouring in the rolling five-note descends. He kept a nicely contrasting lighter touch in the right hand melodic accompaniment. The development of this first movement, which owes much to Beethoven, is flamboyant in its display of passion—melancholy brooding rises in lyrical flights and flares out in torrid declarations.

There is much melodrama in the arpeggiated chords of the second movement, a childlike innocence in some of the ¾ rhythms and a feeling of improvisation that I enjoyed very much. I also noted with pleasure the daring of his long sustained closing notes and prolonged rests.

In the second half of the program, Mr. Zusko occupied himself with the atmospheric poetry of Liszt.  This genre, which Lizst loved to occupy himself with, doesn’t appear to have the profundity of passionate feeling. Its artistic virtue is like the Indian ‘Raga’ whose dignity comes from aligning with the life of  certain times of day, moods or atmospheres of the natural world.

The first piece, “The Play of Water at the Villa D’Este,” from Op. S.163, displays the poetry of water in fountains: the trilling, rolling, racing waters make much demand on the right hand. From Transcendental Études, Op. S. 139, Mr. Zusko played three selections, all beautifully melodic and touching.

“Ricordanza” is an elegy, delicate and lyrical in its meditation on beauty that fades. “Evening Harmonies,” allows for lyrical flights, warm colourings, boldly darkened harmonies that swell, separate into counter-themes, and come together again like a flight of swallows. “Appassionata” is in a minor key. It is a bit obsessive and becomes very agitated, but what it shows is Mr. Zusko’s ability to define the structure of a drama.

Please address your comments to stanley@showtimemagazine.ca

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