Monday, November 29, 2004; Page C04
NATIONAL PHILHARMONIC CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Conductor Piotr Gajewski fielded a subset of his National Philharmonic on Saturday for a splendidly chosen program at Rockville's F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre. The National Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra -- for this program, 20 strings and a trumpet - played for the most part with such seemingly effortless ensemble and agility that its occasional lapses (primarily in the concluding Dvorak Serenade for Strings in E)stood out more than they deserved.
The program opened with a delicately shaped and rhythmically incisive reading of Frank Martin's gorgeous Etudes for String Orchestra. Each of its four movements poses technical challenges. In this performance, the second movement's quietly chromatic flashes of line raced through the orchestra from cellos to first violins and back, moving from section to section with astonishing rhythmic integrity. The bluesy pizzicato third movement, with its demands on balance and just the proper weight for each individual pluck, and the intricate concluding fugue and cello solo were handled with poised artistry.
The Shostakovich Piano Concerto No.1 is a playful (sometimes naughtily so) piece of music. In close collaboration, pianist Eric Himy and Gajewski presided over square and dogmatic-sounding pronouncements from the piano that were grabbed and systematically deconstructed by the orchestra, sonorities with big holes in mid-range, passages that sound like beer hall songfests and a rhythmically unruly finale, all handled masterfully and all delightful. Himy, whose tastes lie well outside the mainstream, has an ear for the ironic and was able to project the music's wit without making it a caricature. Throughout this piece, the lone trumpet added a voice of reason and solemnity to the goings-on and did so with dignity and quiet presence.
Monday, January 5, 2004; Page C05
ERIC HIMY AT FITZGERALD THEATRE
Watch extreme skiing or motorcycling or any other such wildness featured occasionally on TV and, after your heart starts beating again, you wonder: How do they dare do it? How do they do it so well? And how do they get away with it unscathed? Eric Himy gave a recital Saturday that could easily be classified as an extreme piano-playing event.
The program at Rockville's F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre offered a technical minefield -- three of Chopin's big piano pieces, Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit and several groups of Liszt's most demanding pieces. That Himy chose to play through the works in each group without so much as a pause between them for a breath or a release of tension only heightened the impression of avalanche after avalanche of notes and of waves of thunderous crescendos. It's no wonder that he needed to change his shirt during intermission.
The real wonder, however, is that Himy does this so well, that he can pour out romantic excess in cascades of pristinely even touch and balance, that his ability to overpower does not preclude his ability to charm or to be playful and that, through all that technical display, the most impressive aspect of his musicmaking was the rhythmic integrity of his playing. From the nicely delineated rhythmic structure of the often mushily rubatoed Chopin Barcarolle Op. 60, to the three-against-four textures that emerged so effortlessly throughout the Liszt pieces, Himy's attention to rhythm gave real musical interest to what could have been just an exciting show.
Monday, March 13, 2000; Page C05
Recital - Valses Nobles et Sentimentales (1911); Miroirs (1904-05); Sonatine (1903-05); Gaspard de la Nuit (1908); Prélude (1913); Pavane pour une Infante Défunte (1899); Jeux d'Eau (1901); La Valse (1919-20)
Matching the sense of sophistication, boldness and unequaled genius inherent in Maurice Ravel's compositions can be daunting for a performer. Friday night at the French Embassy, pianist Eric Himy proved himself worthy of the challenge, enchanting his audience with an inspiring recital of some of Ravel's most beautiful and difficult works.
Drawn from the poetry of Aloysius Bertrand, Gaspard de la Nuit is commonly held to be one of the most demanding piano works ever written, with its nearly impossible finger work adding to the sensitive task of articulating enigmatic literary ideas. Himy left no doubt of his musical prowess, effortlessly expressing every one of Ravel's complex harmonies and unique musical forms in the mysterious opening movement, Ondine. His mastery of the piece continued, his multidimensional personality shining through in the hypnotic middle section, Le Gibet, and in the chilling finale, Scarbo.
Himy followed Gaspard with four short pieces, including the playful Jeux d'Eau.
Closing the program was La Valse, a tumultuous homage to Viennese waltz master Johann Strauss. Revealing yet another facet of his talent, Himy performed his own arrangement of the composition, which had been only vaguely transcribed for solo piano from orchestra by Ravel and the finale to this tremendous recital would not be tarnished, as he handled the ending with infallible power and intensity.