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.