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25.10.04

Amateur Sunday Afternoon at the Museum of American History 

Paul Anthony Romero's concert at the Carmichael Auditorium in the National Museum of American History saw this southern Californian soundtrack composer in a first half of Bach, Chopin, his own Intermezzo—Concerto for Louis XVI and Rachmaninov. Brock Summers supported him on sax during his own composition, from the Heroes of Might and Magic computer game soundtrack. I, however, did not see all that due to a scheduling mistake on my part and arrived only just in time for the second half of the program.

Romero is not only an estimably able pianist—especially considering that he is an amateur—but also a gifted communicator. Strikingly handsome with his closely shaved head and white smile, he strutted onto the stage more like an olympic swimmer, including the hollers and all from an excited audience. He introduced each piece with a little speech, completely charming the crowd with his lighthearted and approachable comments sprinkled with pop references. It may not have been an event for ‘purists’, but it was easy to see why he is a welcome guest at symphony orchestras all over California to give preconcert lectures and perform children's concerts.

In the noticeably pianistically more demanding second half, Romero played the Franz Liszt-arranged Valse Caprice, no. 6, based on Schubert's little waltz pieces and Vallée d'Oberman (from Année de Pèlerinage), a ‘proper’ Liszt piece. His final piece, arranged for his winning performance at the Van Cliburn 4th International Piano Competition for Amateurs, was the Judy Garland-cum-P. A. Romero "Meet me in St. Louis" trolley song. Dished up with panache and in a fancy version, he finished the recital on a high note.

Surely not attracting the same crowd that will see the inhumanly perfect Maurizio Pollini tomorrow at the Kennedy Center, it was a perfect afternoon of music as culture and entertainment, especially for families, courtesy of the Smithonian Ascociates. The appreciative crowd rewarded Romero with warm applause and loud bravoes.

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