Throughout his week-long residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, pianist Alexei Lubimov showed himself to be a most versatile performer. After tackling a pair of performances of John Cage’s 4 Walls last week, Lubimov returned to the BAC for a program of Beethoven, Schubert, and Glinka. Choosing to perform these works in a period context, Lubimov played on a 6 ½-octave copy of an 1820s Viennese fortepiano made by Roger Regier of Freeport, Maine. Unlike most fortepianos, which can have a very brittle color, Regier’s copy proved to be an agile instrument, and Lubimov extracted a wide array of colors.
Bookending the evening were two of Beethoven’s late sonatas: No. 30 in E Major and No. 32 in C minor. The sunny E Major Sonata relied on crisp, light textures throughout, only delving into Beethoven’s inner turmoil in fleeting passages. Lubimov excelled most in the chorale moments, where his sense of pacing and phrasing were elegant and captivating. At times, the heavier fugato section lacked clarity—certainly forgivable at times, given Beethoven’s delivery of fistfuls of notes. The C minor Sonata, however, was given an incredibly dramatic reading of cinematic scope, full of suspense and power throughout. The fortepiano only lacked depth in the deepest register of the instrument; unlike the modern piano’s booming and cavernous bass tones, the fortepiano sounded shallower by comparison. Lubimov accounted for the difference in timbre by making sure the bass register was never overpowered by the richer middle and upper registers.
Rounding out the program were two Schubert Impromptus—fleeting pieces that showcased Lubimov’s incredibly nimble finger work—and Glinka’s Introduction and Variations on a Theme from “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” by Bellini, full of dramatic harp-like flourishes and fanfares. The sold-out audience was enthusiastic throughout, even gasping at the evening’s most intimate and delicate phrases.