From The Boston Globe:


Chodos is up to sonatas' challenge

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff
January 26, 2005

For many years now, the annual New England Conservatory faculty recital by Gabriel Chodos, cochairman of the piano department, has attracted a devoted audience, and Monday night's weather did nothing to deter his admirers from making their way to Jordan Hall.

Music by Schubert is often the centerpiece of a Chodos recital; to this composer he brings an ideal balance of serenity, passion, and muscle. But Chodos doesn't confine himself to Schubert; the fulminant sonata by Bartok is also a specialty of the house. Still, Monday night's program came as something of a surprise, with two of the supreme virtuoso challenges of the standard repertory, the Liszt Sonata and the longest of Beethoven's sonatas, the mighty ''Hammerklavier."
Performances of the Beethoven sonata do not come along as often as they used to, and when they did, they were invariably not on the elevated musical, pianistic, and spiritual level of Chodos's. For many, the Beethoven recordings by Artur Schnabel, made more than 70 years ago, remain the unapproachable standard; those records have never left the catalog. Chodos studied with at least two of Schnabel's pupils, and you could hear a comparable integrity of purpose in his performance, but its qualities were very much his own, and in this piece he was more reliable than the master.
The first movement hurtled forth with violent, visceral excitement, and the musing opening of the finale was extraordinarily probing. The final fugue was strange and convulsive, and represented triumph through struggle. Not that Chodos was struggling with the insane demands; he was on top of them.
But the wonder of his performance was the huge span of the slow movement, more than 20 minutes of some of the most poignant music Beethoven ever composed. Chodos's playing was memorable for beauty of sound, detail, architecture, and depth of emotion; it suspended time in order to explore profound human feelings.
The performance of the Liszt Sonata was compelling and full of interest, if not quite as fully satisfying as the Beethoven. Chodos's intellectual command of the intricate internal workings of this piece was impressive, and he has certainly mastered the digital requirements. But there is a sensuous element in this music that he did downplay, and he did not bring as much variety of touch and color to the loud episodes as he did to the quieter ones. It was easy to feel battered, so the softer sections came as a relief. The great Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein observed that after Liszt had composed the sonata, he decomposed it; it is hard to hold attention through the long diminuendo of the closing pages. But Chodos's handling of this episode was masterly, and the music never lost its grip.
Chodos responded to the ovations and floral tributes after the ''Hammerklavier" with Schubert, the G-flat Impromptu, which emerged fresh, songful, and soulful.
Gabriel Chodos, piano
At: Jordan Hall, Monday night