Review: Piano Expression Ltd.
Thursday Evening, February 3, 2005
Goethe-Institut, 1014 Fifth Avenue, NYC
First of all, sincere thanks to Piano Expressions, Ltd. for the spectacular opportunity to hear first rate artists at admission prices that are affordable in such a beautiful setting. The audience this evening, as it was eight weeks ago when Dr. Bottazzi last played in the series, was packed and responded throughout the program with thunderous applause, bravos and a standing ovation for the artist.

I hesitate to attempt a review of this concert since I reviewed the last one given here by Dr. Bottazzi and nearly used up by vocabulary of praise at that time. But I will attempt this one because there was something different in the air this evening.

We usually associate virtuosity with speed, thousands of notes performed with ease and brilliance. Well, it's time to amend the definition. There is also a certain flair, elan, spontaneity and elegance that should be part of the definition-plus that impish sort of feeling one got when Horowitz used to do something impossible and you could imagine him giving the audience a wink of humor as he did it. This amended definition was present in abundance at tonight's performance.

I won't give you a travelogue of the music that was played. I'll leave that for music appreciation classes, but I will give you a glimpse of the indescribable genius behind true virtuosic performance.

Not only Mozart the prankster adolescent was present in the 12 Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je maman" but also Mozart the innately elegant man with perfectly articulated nuances of every phrase in his music. No typewriter playing with flair here, but a refinement and humor and sheer elegance that can only be experienced, not described. We could nearly hear the young genius improvising with all the glitter and humor and pathos that defined him at his best.

The Beethoven "Pathetique" Sonata, Op. 13 was an about face with thunder and darkness in the introduction and first movement, heart-rending tenderness in the slow movement and a touch of Vienna in the final Rondo movement. I have most often refused to teach this piece, knowing that this quality in the Rondo could never be described nor could I demonstrate it. Tonight we heard it was there.

Ana Maria Bottazzi's love of America is ever present in her Gershwin "Three Preludes" The spontaneous "riffs" in the first and third and a nostalgic tenderness in the middle Prelude made these pieces her own-no one else's..

Dr. Helmut Fuch's lovely and tender "Schlummerlied", written especially for the artist moved many to tears. The Debussy "Clair de Lune" and "Reflets Dan's L'eau" showed their lineage with Mozart and Chopin with the Bottazzi delicacy making both well-known pieces new experiences.

The lyrical 3rd. Chopin Ballade and well-known c sharp minor Waltz were a perfect prelude to the amazingly difficult Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise, Op. 22. I have often heard this fiendishly difficult final piece with perfect accuracy and amazing speed but never with the spontaneity and flashes of elegance that made it the masterpiece of performance that is was meant to be. A never to be forgotten experience to all of us who were privileged to be present.

The encores of the Chopin "Minute Waltz" and the Morton Gould "Boogie Woogie Etude" were a delight but this is only part of the story of this concert. The endearing anecdotes through the program by Dr. Bottazzi, with her enthusiasm and humor and delightful delivery, were unique to a concert of this type. Only certain types of people can pull this off and it was certainly a resounding addition to this concert. In all the whining and experimenting by people wanting classical concerts to be more "accessible" to the general public, whatever that really means, I wish they could have experienced the relaxed atmosphere hearing the artist speak between pieces in such an endearing manner. Few of us can do that but one of us can and did this evening. I brought several adult students to this concert, knowing it would be a life-changing experience-and it was and will, I am sure, be remembered for years to come.

I'm ready to hear Ana Maria Bottazzi every week until my concert going days are over. If more people get a chance to hear her as we did tonight, this will be a reality. As she often quotes: "what we are is God's gift to us, what we do with it is our gift to God". Well, dear Ana Maria Bottazzi, let us hear you more. Your gift is too rare to be experienced so seldom.

Phillip Dieckow, review for Recitals Reviews, founder and director of the Dieckow School of Music, Artist in Residence in Piano at the Steven Institute of Technology and concert pianist.