by Angela Sutton
Pianist Ian Hobson continued his two-month examination of Brahms at the DiMenna Center on Thursday night before an audience of avid connoisseurs, with the pianist showing a fine sense of musical structure—both sequential (in developing relationships between consecutive sections) and simultaneous (in his weighting of concurrent lines) throughout. When Hobson exhibited an equal care for the piano's sensual qualities, the results were magical, although this sense of finesse was not always present.
The Variations on a Theme of Robert Schumann, Op. 9, opened the program—a work that dramatically recasts Schumann's melody in a wide array of textures, rather than simply using the older technique of rhythmic development. Hobson expertly unpeeled the variations' layers, with extremely moving results, particularly in the fluttering central ninth and tenth variations. His elegant treatment of the Finale, with its sudden turn to just a few scraps of harmony, powerfully brought forward Op. 9's sense of submerged melancholy—the composer's response to his early mentor Schumann's contemporaneous commitment to an asylum.