Beatrice Rana is an Italian pianist, born in 1993. She comes from Apulia, right in the heel. Last night, she played a recital in Carnegie Hall, and a formidable recital it was.
She began, much to my regret, with the four scherzos of Chopin. What do I have against the scherzos? Nothing. But I do not think they should be played as a set. They are not a set. They are individual pieces. Playing all four of them, one after another, is like serving the same course in a meal, over and over.
For many years, I have written about, and against, the completeness craze in the music business: the felt need to play all the Schubert impromptus in a given opus number, or to play all four Chopin ballades, or all of the scherzos, etc. I look forward to the end of this craze, someday. It is more musicological than musical.
Between scherzos, as the audience applauded, Ms. Rana did not even rise from her bench or face the audience, although she smiled and nodded politely. She really treated the scherzos as a set—as though she were singing a song-cycle.
It was good, however, to hear the Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, which is seldom played, and to hear the Scherzo No. 4 in E major, which is even more seldom played.
Ms. Rana began, of course, with the Scherzo No. 1 in B minor. I once heard Horowitz end a recital with this piece—end the printed program, that is. There were always encores, famously.
She is a real virtuoso, Beatrice Rana. (Virtuosa?) She has lotsa technique, with loose, wet-spaghetti arms. Nothing can impede her. She reminds me of Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, and others in her fluidity. In the scherzos, she unleashed blizzards of notes, yet there was clarity within the blizzards. Also, I heard some inner voices I had never quite noticed. She was cat-like in her sforzandos: pouncing. And her fortissimos were good, honest fortissimos, with no banging at all.
Any complaints from me? Well, interpretation—especially rubato, or license with time—is a matter of taste. I believe that some of the music was a little cutesy, borderline fussed over. There was at times too much starting and stopping for me. Also, I might have asked for a slightly greater range of dynamics. There seemed to be a lot of loud.
One more thing—a cavil. Extraordinary and immaculate as Ms. Rana is, she muffed the main figure in the B-flat-minor scherzo a couple of times (if I heard correctly). A note or two failed to sound. This proved that she was human, which was in question, given her overall accuracy.
I will pause for a fashion note: Ms. Rana wore a sparkly red dress, New Year’s Evey. She has long black hair. She looked smashing. If you care to sue me for pointing this out—you will merely be participating in the American pastime, litigation.
After intermission, Ms. Rana played the Etudes, Book I, of Debussy. (In this instance, I think completeness is wholly justified.) There are six pieces in the book. Like the etudes of Chopin, Scriabin, and others, Debussy’s are not mere studies: they are clever, ingenious pieces of music. You hear the composer’s playfulness or puckishness. You hear his penchant for Orientalism.
Ms. Rana played the etudes with wonderful intelligence and musicianship (and, of course, that gold-plated technique). Earlier, I spoke of blizzards. Ms. Rana unleashed a blizzard, or at least a healthy storm, in the final etude. I was reminded somewhat of the last movement of Chopin’s Sonata in B-flat minor—the wind rushing over the gravestones. Ms. Rana was ghostly.
She ended her printed program with Stravinsky: his Three Movements from Pétrouchka. What do you need to play this work well? Virtuosity, granted. An understanding of sec—the ability to play dry. Percussiveness, of the right kind (no banging or pounding). Limpidity, and the ability to create a sheen. Rhythm. A very keen sense of rhythm. If you don’t got rhythm, don’t try Pétrouchka.
Ms. Rana was splendid. She delivered the best Pétrouchka I have heard since Pollini.
She gave us two encores, perfectly chosen. First came Saint-Saëns’s “Swan,” in the Godowsky arrangement. It was slinky, elegant—beautiful. And then, a final, brief burst of virtuosity: Chopin’s Prelude in B-flat minor.
Many of us have worries about the future, in any number of areas. But one thing not to be worried about: they keep coming, these brilliant pianists.