In performance: Joel Fan
Pianist Joel Fan (a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble) played a terrific lunchtime recital at the National Gallery on Wednesday of works by American composers who have embraced both the romantic past and a more dissonant present.
Elliott Carter’s seminal 1945 Piano Sonata may have ranked as the program’s most significant work — a watershed piece that shows his early Copland-esque style morphing into the 12-tone rigors of his later years — but the afternoon’s highlight was Leon Kirchner’s 2006 Piano Sonata No. 3. A work commissioned, premiered and recorded by Fan (a former student of the composer’s at Harvard), the sonata is one of those intoxicating Kirchner cocktails of Lisztian rhapsody, Straussian opulence, mercurial shifts of emotion that evoke Mahler, and 12-tone structures that only rarely yield harshness.
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