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Kotaro Fukuma, Pianist in Review

Kotaro Fukuma, Pianist in Review
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. December 6, 2011

By Anthony Aibel, New York Concert Review
December 6, 2011
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Kotaro Fukuma

In a Weill Hall recital presented by New York Concert Artists and Associates, Kotaro Fukuma, who was born in Tokyo but now resides in Berlin, performed a beautifully varied program for a full house audience. The first half consisted of selections from Bach’s “Art of the Fugue” plus a work that was inspired by them: the Sonata No. 31 in A-flat Major, Op. 110 by Beethoven. The Beethoven has a fugal movement of its own, and Mr. Fukuma performed it–like the Bach–with great clarity of rhythmical articulation. Indeed, his technique is superb. I would have preferred a little more delineation of the fugal entrances—i.e. more dynamic contrast between the entrance and subsidiary counterpoint. There could also have been better phrasing in terms of showing the direction of the melodic line; for example, phrases beginning with a softer, lighter touch and ending with fuller climaxes.

In the second half, Fukuma confirmed his stellar technique with Liszt transcriptions. “Ab Irato” from “Grande Etude de Perfectionnement” was fantastic. “La Campanella” could have had more Romantic-period exaggeration of dynamics; like in earlier pieces, he needed to play with a more varying touch and bring more shape (crescendo and diminuendo phrasing) to the musical lines. He ended it brazenly and powerfully, however, with polished octaves that were as clean as a whistle. One became riveted by the music’s concluding dramatic intensity.

In Ligeti’s Book I Etudes (selections), Fukuma played with a wonderfully articulate left hand, and excellent all-around clarity of rhythm. In “Arc-en-Ciel”, he could have brought more dreaminess to the atmosphere. In general, more phrasing within the given dynamics and subtleties of color were missing, but his interpretation of “Automne a Varsovie” seemingly held the audience spellbound with its sudden flare-ups of high octane heat.

Sergei Liapounov’s music from the “Etudes d’execution transcendante”, Op. 11

displayed more of Fukuma’s technical strengths, with thunderous, blazing octaves. His encores (Chopin/Liszt: “Meine Freunden” and another Liapounov Etude) were equally impressive, as they were permeated with impeccable virtuosity. Come to think of it, he didn’t miss a note all evening.