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RECITAL REVIEW

Pianist Nancy Lee Harper Feb. 24 in Santa Rosa

CHOPIN BALLADES FEATURED IN CONCERTS GRAND RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 24, 2018

Pianist Nancy Lee Harper made an elegant North Coast debut Feb. 24 in the Concerts Grand House Recitals series in a private Santa Rosa home.

Ms. Harper, for decades a performer and teacher in Portugal, has recently relocated to Northern California, played an all-Chopin recital that was comprehensive in repertoire and at many places thrilling. She began with an Op. Posthumous Waltz, then the Op. 43 Tarantelle, and closing the first part was the Op. 61 Polonaise-Fantasie.

The main part of the program were the great Ballades, Ops. 23, 38, 47 and 52. Each well under ten minutes, the four contain a cosmos of human emotions and virtuosic drama. Ms. Harper gave each individuality and when called for, sonic intensity. Before the pianissimo coda of the F Minor Ballade, there are three resounding fortissimo chords, two usually played staccato and the last often taken dryly with no pedal. Ms. Harper played in the Slavic way, the final chord with full pedal and then a delayed and tiny pedal lift to diminish the sound before the tumultuous sprint to the finish. A small effect yes, but only one example of her attention to interpretative details.

Ms. Harper is a scholar of Portuguese music, with many publications, and for an encore she chose Antonio Fragoso’s Notturno, a gem that is dramatic, dreamy and Chopinesque. Fragoso’s untimely death came shortly before his 21th birthday in 1918.