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Classic South Florida Review ”” Gekić Lights Up FIU Music Festival with Rarely Heard “Hexameron”

Pianist Kemal Gekić performed the rarely heard multi-composer Hexameron Saturday evening at the FIU Music Festival.

Franz Liszt’s piano fireworks and introspective miniatures by Frédéric Chopin dominated a brief but compelling recital at the FIU Music Festival on Saturday night. Three pianists took turns on the stage at the Wertheim Concert Hall, each with their own distinct perspective on the keyboard icons of the Romantic era.

The 75-minute program opened unpromisingly with a cold and characterless reading of Chopin’s Nocturne in B major, Op. 61, no. 1 by Lindsay Garritson. Garritson, who can play the mighty Prokofiev, seemed totally at sea in the melancholy lines of Chopin’s melodic writing.

by Liszt Spanish Rhapsody seemed more in tune with his pianistic strengths. The theme “La Folia” of the introduction has been accurately stated in Liszt’s book. Totentanz fashion. His brilliant sound and agility in the “Jota Arargonese” section deftly captured Liszt’s fusion of Latin dance and pyrotechnics. Still, Garritson’s was Liszt’s least impressive game of the night.

Former CRF Silvije Vidovic proved to be an elegant Chopin player in a finely proportioned traverse of Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, no. 1. Its gradations of tones and terraced colors enhanced the idiomatic elegance of its performance, but it could also bring thunder to the more stormy central episode of Chopin. The Croatian pianist’s own composition Mist was a brief Chopin-esque vignette.

His transcription of Riziero Ortolani’s “Oh My Love” was performed in the large-scale and radical Rachmaninoff style, but did an arrangement of a pop song really have a place in a concert that contrasted the subtle and courageous sides of the song? Grand piano ? Vidovic’s interpretation of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody emerged muscular and propulsive, taking on the main subject at high speed, with clearly articulated octaves.

Longtime CRF faculty member Kemal Gekić (who was Vidovic’s teacher) concluded the evening with true rarity—Hexameron-Brilliant Variations on a Theme by Bellini. This confection was written by a committee of composers which included famous figures such as Liszt, Chopin, Carl Czerny and Sigismond Thalberg as well as more obscure figures such as Johann Peter Pixis and Henri Herz. Based on the melody of the baritone-bass duo “Suoni la tromba” by Bellini I puritani, this set of six variations with an elongated introduction and epilogue-finale (by Liszt) manages to be musically distinctive, imaginative and highly entertaining, despite the diversity of creative contributions.

Gekić is a specialist in Liszt and he even referred to the composer’s visual appearance, wearing a cape and his long hair on his back and shoulders. His bossy Liszt playing also encompassed the vocal line of the theme’s first statement and fiery volume extremes. Gekić drew an almost orchestral sound from the piano in the great climaxing moments. He was able to bring fluidity and dynamic contrasts carefully tinted and graduated to the funeral arizo of Liszt’s second variation (Moderato).

Czerny’s brilliant Vivo e section is just as complex and stimulating as his exercises that have tormented piano students for over a century, but Gekić pulled it off with lightness, verve, and total numerical precision. There was a sonorous beauty and an exquisite touch in Chopin’s Sullen Largo (Variation VI). Gekić has made every effort to Mephisto Waltz-like Molto vivace quasi prestissimo finale, playing at full speed and volume. His display of pianistic bravery in this unusual score was an exhilarating conclusion to a lively evening that emphasized the dynamic side of the piano.

The FIU Music Festival presents the Amernet String Quartet with violinists Nicholas Kitchen and Mari-Liis Pakk, violist Stephanie Block and cellist Yeesun Kim 7:30 p.m. on October 30 at the FIU Wertheim Concert Hall in Miami. The program includes quartets by Ravel and Mozart and the Octet by Enescu.

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