Review on Theatre Jones: Voices of Change | Caruth Auditorium

by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

published Saturday, May 9, 2015

"...As to as the most serious piece on the program, it was serious indeed. Pianist Carol Leone, who is the chair of the keyboard department at SMU, gave a definitive performance of Bartók’s Sonata, Sz.80.

This is a very difficult work to play and hear: 15 very intense minutes, thickly scored and bristling with dissonance. The composer writes percussive music that takes full advantage of all of the instrument's alibies. (He even asks for more than the modern piano offers. He writes it for a Bösendorfer with some additional keys in the bass.) 

Bartók’s craftsmanship is astounding. It is fascinating to hear how he crammed such experimental harmonies, laced with folklike tunes, into standard forms. Upon close examination, this is basically a tonal work, but it certainly pushes the boundaries with his incorporation of dissonance. There is so much gong on all of the time, with such a thick texture, that it is not easy to listen and follow everything. However, in this reading, the piece was easier to follow that in any hearing in memory.

Leone’s performance was revelatory because she picked through the score and decided what the audience should hear at every given point and then made everything else subservient. It sounded like a different piece, clarified, and all of Bartók’s skillful application of the craft of composition was on full display. Further, this piece is usually a bang-a-thon, but not in Leone’s hands. But not to fear: when power was needed, she rose up off the bench and came down on the keyboard with full force." 

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