Monday, March 11, 2002

Martin Jones dazzles piano series audience

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Before pianist Martin Jones played Erich Korngold's Sonata No. 2 Sunday night, he told his audience that the Czech composer was a child prodigy. For some people, Mr. Jones explained, playing comes naturally. Then he added, “I have to work at this. I just can't do it.”

        He then played Mr. Korngold's sonata, and what unfolded was an elegant, magnificent rendition of a technically challenging piece. And he played it effortlessly and naturally for his audience in the Bethesda Foundation Auditorium at BethesdaOak Hospital's Medical Education & Research Center.

        Written when Korngold was just 13 years old, the work elaborates on a simple melody and then reworks it until it culminates into a series of energetic passages. There is an occasional calm in the musical storm — a lull that was both delicate and somber — as handled by Mr. Jones, an artist in Xavier University's Classical Piano series.

        He played the sonata with strength and tenacity. His interpretation dynamic and colorful.

        The same was true for the concert opener, Franz Liszt's Variations on a theme of Bach. Written later in his life when the composer's work became more experimental, the work begins with passive, simple phrases but, like Mr. Korngold's sonata, eventually explodes into difficult passages in irregular time signatures.

        In complete command of the work, Mr. Jones showed tremendous dexterity and a complete connection with rhythm.

        Mr. Jones played Samuel Barber's Nocturne with tenderness. Its placement in the repertoire — after Liszt's and before Korngold — was ideal. Its beautiful, linear melody stood in sharp contrast to the other works in the program.

        Mr. Jones played Sergei Rachmaninoff's Variations on a theme of Corelli — a little Italian and a lot Russian —as haunting and moody as the composer probably indicated. It's woven around an ancient Italian dance melody that Arcangelo Corelli used for one of his violin sonatas.

        Mr. Jones soared through a jazzy rendition of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess Fantasy, arranged by Earl Wild. Here, his technical abilities allowed him to have some fun. It was as if he became a Broadway showman — playing spectacular runs on the keyboard with unabashed zeal — all the while remaining a classical virtuoso.

        The Gershwin piece was also a crowd pleaser. The audience, only about 50, (perhaps because the Bethesda Foundation Auditorium is so hard to find) gave him a standing ovation, so Mr. Jones sat down at his piano and performed three more short pieces.


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