James Adler, Composer, Pianist, Teacher, Plays Dramatic “Waldstein” for Yamaha
Bruce-Michael Gelbert

James Adler, beloved composer, performing pianist, and teacher, brought his art midtown to the Yamaha Piano Salon on November 9, playing for a small and appreciative live audience, the event intended for broadcast later on.
Adler began with a bang, with a bustling, fiery, then contemplative, then dramatic Toccata, from “Three Works for James Adler,” by Kevin Cummines. Next, in contrast, came the refined Baroque line of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata in D Major, BWV 912, with Adler’s bouncy, airy final Presto a particular highlight.

In the recent Three Short Pieces (composed in the Age of Covid), which followed, Seth Bedford captured the quiet of last year in “Summer of Stillness;” young Kuwaiti composer Abdulaziz Shabakhouh, its turbulence in “James Adler;” and Adler himself, his subject’s valor and our profound loss in “For Notorious: Ruth Bader Ginsburg/Our Rockstar of Blessed Memory,” who died on Rosh Hashana in the Jewish year 5781. With his widow Susan in attendance, the late Paul Turok’s Little Suite for Piano, Opus Nine, consisted of a propulsive Prelude; ornamented, trill-filled Arabesque; and rapid-fire Toccata.

The centerpiece of the afternoon recital was Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata Number 21 in C Major, Opus 53 (“Waldstein.”) In Adler’s realization of the Allegro con Brio, one could clearly hear its Mozartian ancestry—think the restless “Nozze di Figaro” overture overlaid with early-Romantic grandeur. After a solemn Adagio molto, came his brilliant, uplifting Rondo, Allegretto moderato—Prestissimo.
The performance concluded with Adler’s buoyant adaptation of Vladimir Horowitz’s Variations on a Theme from Bizet’s “Carmen,” the earthy start-of the-opera’s-second-act “Chanson Bohème,” making use of its orchestral introduction, the “Chanson” itself, the music for the ends of its verses and, as much dance as song, its driven finale.

Bruce-Michael Gelbert,
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