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MUSIC REVIEW

Past is present for expressive pianist

Nguyen Thuy Quynh
Presented by: the Vietnamese
Culture Society
At: Pickman Auditorium in the Longy School of Music, Saturday

CAMBRIDGE -- The Vietnamese pianist Nguyen Thuy Quynh, 27, studied in her native country, Russia, and New York, and has won the unqualified admiration of some knowledgeable critics and connoisseurs.

Saturday night, she made her local debut, and it was easy to understand why even people who are hard to please like her so much. She is a musical and expressive player who commands a flexible, singing sound. She is often sensitive and poetic, and when she should dazzle with lively rhythm, piquant inflexions, and dashing virtuosity -- as in Chopin's "Andante spianato and Grand Polonaise brillante," or in the Chopin waltz she offered as an effervescent encore -- she knows how to. Quynh opened with an unusual Sonata in F Minor by Muzio Clementi, which she played in an operatic and romantic style. Her playing of Ravel's "Tombeau de Couperin" was marvelous: she excels in everything that requires elegance, proportion, balance, taste, and wit.

Schumann's "Kreisleriana" was almost too beautifully played, with subtle interplay of inner voices -- but this suite of pieces exposed some limitations. There is nothing wild, surprising, ecstatic, or transgressive about Quynh's art, and there is about Schumann's. Quynh's delightful playing feels old-fashioned, and not for an entirely good reason. It is exclusively connected to the past, viewed as the past, and there is nothing of the here-and-now about it. One wished she had played a piece written in her own lifetime by a composer she knows.

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