On Tuesday, the American Liszt Society presented pianist Alexandre Dossin in solo recital at the Midtown Yamaha Artist's Studio. As one would expect, original and transcribed works by Franz Liszt formed most of the program, but Mr. Dossin also played Mozart's Sonata in C, K.330, and selections from Tchaikovsky's The Seasons. In all of these works, Mr. Dossin displayed precise, velvety fingerwork, excellent technical command, and a strong sense of drama.
Mr. Dossin led off with Mozart. Mozart conceived his piano music for instruments much smaller, quieter, and less resonant than the eight-plus-foot Yamaha CFX grand on stage last night. (What, you were expecting a Steinway?) To play Mozart without distortion, then, modern pianists must forego some resources of their instruments without sacrificing expressiveness: a tricky act of renunciation. For me, Mr. Dossin's Mozart playing, though careful and extremely lucid, displayed the tension of this self-denial. In faster passages, his playing pressed a bit forward, as if his fingers wanted to slip the leash and gallop down the keyboard; reining them in seemed to cost him some effort. For all its fine qualities, it left me cold.
Not so with the rest of the program. Liszt's Apres une Lecture de Dante (better known as the 'Dante Sonata'), closed out the first half. This lengthy, finger-stretching depiction of a journey through Hell and Paradise presents a severe test of skill, which Mr. Dossin surmounted. He projected Liszt's themes above their complex accompaniment (no easy task) while pulling a huge variety of sound out of the piano, literally shaking the windows at the thunderous conclusion.
The second half featured a selection of Liszt's transcriptions of Russian operatic and popular tunes. Transcriptions were a large part of Liszt's output, in which he explored the potential of the piano to imitate other instruments on themes familiar to his audience. Tchiakovsky's waltz "October" conjured falling leaves and lengthening nights while Liszt's transcription of the "Polonaise" from Tchiakovsky's Eugene Onegin was particularly successful in evoking the instruments of the orchestra.
After this intense and exhausting program, it was disappointing but understandable that Mr. Dossin would forego an encore. Even without it, I enjoyed myself tremendously.