Charlie Albright has three planned concerts with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston – all based on the idea of themes and variations. Here’s the review of the reviews:

Pianist Charlie Albright returned to the ISGM with the first of three planned concerts named “Themes and Variations,” this one featuring two such sets each by Mozart and Chopin. Brilliant and fun pianism rewarded those of us who braved the bitterly cold Sunday afternoon. Albright’s marvelous touch came with clearly articulated tones in both hands, left and right as independent as you’ll ever hear, while his stunning technique disappeared into the music. Most striking, however, was the joy he radiated throughout; Albright clearly loves sharing his playing with us.

He began with Mozart’s well-known Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je Maman.” His introductory remarks indicated that he was more focused on what the master did with the tune than on the French folksong source. The “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” antecedent constitutes something of complex meditation on coming of age. He found the complexity in the score itself and brought out Mozart’s richness.

In both of the Mozart works performed here, Albright’s playing was clear and light, with very sparing use of the pedal—mostly for continuity. His wide range of touch comprised legato arpeggios in the third, big staccato chords in the fourth, and a light skipping tinged with sadness in the fifth. The minor key eighth variation was taken poco adagio, melancholy and regretful, suffused with the solemn grandeur of a bygone baroque era. The final variation was played allegro vivace, with beautiful running fingerwork in the left hand as the theme rang out triumphantly in the right.

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