Beatrice Rana blends bravura and poetry in Boston recital debut

March 01, 2019
By Jonathan Blumhofer
Beatrice Rana performed a recital Wednesday night at Pickman Hall. Photo: Marie Staggat

Beatrice Rana performed a recital Wednesday night at Pickman Hall. Photo: Marie Staggat

In her Celebrity Series debut Wednesday night at Pickman Hall, Beatrice Rana showed herself an uncommonly thoughtful and sensitive musician.

A 2013 Van Cliburn Competition silver medalist, she clearly  has technique to burn. But her keyboard playing offers much more than mere fireworks, as all three works demonstrated on Rana’s short but challenging program.

The Italian pianist is an artist whose attention to tone color and rhythmic detail are inextricably linked to her focus on the musical line. What’s more, Rana’s playing offers plenty of personality and intensity to draw in an audience, carry it along, and convince it of the rightness of her interpretation.

In Chopin’s op. 25 Études, Rana proved a thoroughly ingratiating musical storyteller. These dozen short pieces, which clock in at just about thirty minutes, run the gamut from the simple to the profound; all make staggering demands on the pianist’s fingers and mind.

Rana treated the whole set as a single narrative, each individual movement subtly connected to those around it, like chapters in a book. The F-minor étude’s rhythmically precise triplets were a logical extension of the shimmering flourishes of the preceding “Aeolian Harp” étude. Likewise, the effortless charm of the “Butterfly” étude (No. 9) was framed by the D-flat-major étude’s delirious lilt and the B-minor étude’s seething turbulence.

Through it all, Rana’s facility dazzled – particularly her ability to navigate the music’s textures, teasing out the melodic line while providing ample weight to Chopin’s bravura supporting writing.

In the C-sharp-minor “Cello” étude, Rana defined the contrapuntal melodic figures and their accompaniment with remarkable control: the former spoke lushly, while the latter, though never dominated the main line. Similarly, the big left-hand tune in the “Winter Wind” étude wasn’t (for once) swallowed up by the right’s cascades—though those lacked nothing for force or intensity. And the concluding “Ocean” étude drove furiously, Rana shaping its gestures with total command while ensuring the quiet moments went with ample vigor.

If Rana’s Chopin was charismatic and sweeping, her account of Maurice Ravel’s Miroirs allowed the pianist to indulge her poetic sensibility. Comprised of five movements that evoke nature and imagined scenes, Miroirs requires both immense stamina and interpretive intelligence.

Rana demonstrated that she possesses both. Her account of the opening “Noctuelles” was fleet and explosive but also, with its darkly sober turns, mysterious and unpredictable. Rana’s stratification of tone color in “Oiseaux tristes” was among the night’s finest accomplishments: bright bird calls echoing against the languid, aimless shadows of Ravel’s “dark forest during summer’s hottest hours.”

“Une barque sur l’océan,” full of sparkling arpeggios and mighty, low keyboard writing was Miroirs’ expressive anchor, thanks to Rana’s command of its melodic gestures and excellent dynamic control. A spunky “Alborada del gracioso” and a hypnotic “La vallée de cloches” capped a roundly satisfying traversal of this exacting work.

After Miroirs came the wild virtuosity of Guido Agosti’s 1928 transcription of the last three movements of Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird.

Rana’s performance was taut and vital, a slashing “Danse infernale” and noble “Finale” framing a warmly lyrical “Berceuse.” Her playing was strongly colored, too, and Agosti’s evocations of Stravinsky’s striking instrumentation here spoke purposefully.

Indeed, Rana’s entire recital, which culminated in encores of two Chopin preludes (Nos. 13 and 16), proved a masterclass in meaningful pianism. Even if her playing wasn’t quite note-perfect at times, Rana’s artistic maturity is profound. And, at just 26, it’s a safe bet that her best days are ahead of her.

The Celebrity Series will present Joyce DiDonato’s SONGPLAY  8 p.m. March 1 at Jordan Hall.; 617-482-6661

One Response to “Beatrice Rana blends bravura and poetry in Boston recital debut”

  1. Posted Mar 03, 2019 at 2:07 pm by Corey Silberstein

    Mostly perceptive account of Rana’s performance, but why the absurd caveat at the end of your article that her playing “wasn’t quite note-perfect at times”?