FORT WORTH - For
half an hour Saturday afternoon at Ed Landreth Auditorium on the TCU
campus, Californian Paul Anthony Romero evoked the aura of the golden
age of the virtuoso, when Liszt and his cohorts crisscrossed Europe and
the United States, presenting solo recitals of transcriptions,
monumental showpieces and their original music to culture-hungry
In the process, Romero gave the jury of the fourth International
Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs little choice but to award
him the top honors a few minutes later.
Romero's calling card for his performance in the final round was Liszt's Soiree de Vienne
No. 6, a gussied-up virtuoso arrangement of an innocent Schubert Waltz;
the thunderous opening chords announced Romero as a fearless virtuoso
of the old school, an impression he continued to reinforce in the long
series of fancy elaborations on Schubert's melodies, ranging from
delicate passage work to roaring octaves.
He moved on to one of Liszt's original compositions, the Vallee de'Obermann,
a partly autobiographical musical description of a man reflecting on
his life. On a phrase-by-phrase level, it's a catalog of technical
challenges; on a broader level, it demands a sure command of momentum
and a strong, sincere sense of drama -- all of which Romero possesses.
For the capper of this magnificent performance, Romero included a
built-in encore in his program, a 2 1/2-minute Godowsky-style
paraphrase (packed with scales, leaps and other virtuoso ornaments) on
Martin and Blane's Trolley Song.
Romero's performance, which also won him the audience favorite award, was the last of six on the final day of the contest.
The session opened with Brazilian-born, California-based Marisa
Naomi Haines, who gave the proceedings a promising start with American
composer Emma Lou Diemer's Toccata, an effective showpiece that
starts out with Bartoklike rhythms and energy but which calls on the
pianist to reach inside the piano to strum, hit or dampen the strings
South Carolina homemaker Ann Herlong followed with a genteel
rendition of Beethoven's Sonata in E-flat, Opus 31, No. 3. Her
beautiful shaping of the melodic slow movement epitomized her refined
artistry. Although she seemed a little on edge at the beginning of her
performance, she settled into fine high spirits for the humorous,
lively fourth movement that closed the Sonata and her performance.
Canadian Averill Piers Baker, meanwhile, demonstrated a penchant for
brilliance as she launched into her performance of Schmann's Symphonic
Etudes, a set of variations in which Schumann demonstrates every
possible technical challenge he can conjure. Baker communicated her
ideas clearly, but one could sense that she probably has a better
performance of this piece inside her.
Though it certainly wasn't a night of perfection, it was thoroughly
enjoyable, as all the performers proved that they deserved their places
in the finals of the Amateur Cliburn.