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Review: Beatrice Rana Plays Tchaikovsky at Human Scale

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From early on, the fashionable use of rubato gave a way of dreaminess to her performance. The sprawling first movement never felt lost, nevertheless it wandered: assertive; then suddenly reflective, translucent; then once more roiling. Within the finale, her playing danced with appealing, almost sticky heaviness, but then the following line would take off with sparkling freshness.

All this changeability never evoked anxiety, because it has within the hands of other artists. Rana projects an underlying calm command, a grounded quality, with the concerto’s different moods on human scale. Small corners were intimate communication: the notes touched, with perfect clarity, by her right pinkie as punctuation to her mellow left hand; her trills, lucid yet silky, a bit of melty.

The orchestra played with panache within the third movement — and van Zweden supported artful details, just like the double basses seeming to take up the resonance of the piano near the top. But it surely was hard to give attention to anything however the central player. Even during an enormous flute solo in the primary movement, you couldn’t take your ears off Rana. It was a really memorable debut.

Shostakovich is van Zweden country, the form of repertory by which his characteristic clenched grip on the music helps slightly than hinders it. This was a punchy, tightly played Fifth, an angrily grinning tackle a piece whose politics will all the time be ambiguous. (Its composer was desperately attempting to get in Stalin’s good graces, but so far as the rating’s meaning, who knows?)

The Philharmonic played well, with an almost choked grotesquerie within the march in the primary movement, an eerie danse macabre of the second and bristling unsentimentality within the third. Van Zweden began the finale very fast, and the orchestra responded with clean ferocity. The progression to the climactic major-key explosion was grim, and its achievement, as Shostakovich may possibly have intended, was the very definition of an empty victory.

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This program continues through Saturday on the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Manhattan; nyphil.org.

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