By Lawrence Budmen

Pianist Daniel Lessner began his musical studies at four years of age in Miami and made his concert debut when he was only eleven years old. He went on to study at New York’s prestigious Julliard School with legendary pedagogue Adele Marcus. Lessner has toured extensively in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Also a gifted composer, he creates music for the film industry in Los Angeles. On May 21 at the University of Miami Gusman Concert Hall, Daniel Lessner returned home to give a stellar recital for the Miami Civic Music Association.

Lessner is a brilliant technician. His keyboard dexterity and sheer speed is striking. Wild leaps and hand crossings hold no terrors for this pianist. More importantly, he is a musician of pristine artistic taste and discernment.

His highly personal interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “English Suite No.3 in G Minor” was invigorating1 He brought incisive phrasing to the opening Prelude. Rhythmic spring abounded in the Courante. Lessner understands that Bach’s music must dance. (Bach composed in the dance rhythms of his day.) His version of the Sarabande was moving, exquisitely patrician. The middle section of the Gavotte seemed to flow from the keyboard as if Lessner were inventing the music (which really sparkled). In the final Gigue, Lessner’s delineation of the contrapuntal writing and imaginative inner voicings was something to cheer about! A wonderful Bach performance! 

Lessner perfectly captured the youthful impetuosity of Schumann’s “Carnival.” The opening chords were commanding and exhilarating. There was yearning passion in the Romanze. Lessner’s vibrant playing of the Scherzino was a delight. The aching lyricism of the Intermezzo and rhythmic strength and sparkling effervescence of the Finale were the sine qua non of Schumann performance. Here was the perfect combination of pianist and composer. Lessner’s Schumann was memorable! 

Six of Franz Liszt’s transcriptions of Schubert Lieder were played with musicality and grace. Lessner brought vigorous articulation to the Trout lieder. (Schubert used this theme in his “Trout Quintet.”) He perfectly captured the dreamy aura of the famous Serenade with particularly elegant figuration.

A blazing performance of Three Movements from “Petrouchka” by Igor Stravinsky capped a brilliant evening. (Stravinsky’s keyboard transcription of his orchestral writing is technically daunting.) Lessner captured the bracing modernity of the Danse Russe with glistening chords of myriad coloration. He dispatched Stravinsky’s challenging pianistic flourishes with bravura command and fierce speed. Lessner emphasized the shocking dissonance of Chez Petrouchka. The final Semaine Grasse had bold, full voiced orchestral sonorities! Lessner offered an elegantly phrased Scarlatti sonata as a wistful encore.

Lessner clearly is an impressive young artist. His concert was astutely programmed and played with imagination and temperament. The good news is that this young musician’s career has only just begun. 

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