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May 11, 2009

Gary Graffman delivers eventful left-hand recital at University of Baltimore

It is a curious thing that two exceptionally powerful American pianists born in the same year --1928 -- should have developed cripling ailments in their right hands within a 14-year span. Leon Fleisher, hampered by neurological damage in 1965, has managed in recent years to resume some ambidextrous playing thanks to Botox injections. Gary Graffman, who injured his right hand in 1979, remains confined to music for the left hand alone, but that hasn't really restricted his musical life.

Like Fleisher, Graffman has championed the small, but substantive, left-hand repertoire from the past and has also added to it with works written expressly for him. He brought a sampling of old and contemporary music to UB's Student Center Saturday night, wrapping up the inaugural Great Pianists Series there before an audience that included Fleisher. 

Graffman delivered the eventful program with commitment and, for the most part, technical clarity and expressive force. Too much force sometimes, for my tastes. Graffman seemed to prefer playing at mezzo-forte and louder, overlooking opportunities to create subtler tonal shades. Nonetheless, there was much to enjoy, including dynamic accounts of Reinecke's Sonata and Reger's Four Special Studies. More impresive still were the pianist's expressive performances of richly textured pieces by Kirchner and Corigliano that exploited the remarkable range of possibilities available to merely five fingers of the left hand.


Posted by Tim Smith at 5:59 AM | | Comments (1)


why always the right hand?

Curious, isn't it? Makes me wonder if any pianists have ever faced a troubled left hand and if there's any serious right-hand-only repertoire out there?TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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