Pianist Raduu Lupu plays his old frined Schubert

Radu Lupu
Miami Herald

The trend toward making classical musicians media darlings and flamboyant pop celebrities clearly has bypassed Radu Lupu. The acclaimed pianist never grants interviews, and his stage demeanor remains all business; the bearded, long-haired Romanian resembles a stern biblical patriarch.

Lupu's appearance Monday night at Gusman Concert Hall -- presented by Friends of Chamber Music and the University of Miami's Frost School -- was the pianist's first Miami solo recital in many years and served to affirm his reputation as a leading Schubert pianist of our time.

Expansive in scale, Schubert's Piano Sonata in B flat, D. 960, sounds jarringly modern even today with its prevailing bleakness and psychological penetration. Written in the last year of Schubert's short life -- the composer died at 31 -- the work carries a firm sense of autobiography, with its main theme's progress continually undermined by malign bass trills and harmonic displacement.

Lupu's extraordinary performance of this vast work was a virtual seminar in Schubert interpretation:

The magisterial first movement unfolded with a firm yet expressive momentum and unforced eloquence. In the slow movement, Lupu's mastery was consistently evident, with time seeming to stand still in spacious, unsettled repose. In the finale which, after the previous movements often can seem lightweight, Lupu's explosive minor-key outbursts showed that there is no victory to be found beneath the work's surface superficialities.

Lupu's encore of a Brahms Intermezzo, rendered with tenderness and inward expression, was equally memorable.

The evening opened with three Beethoven sonatas. Some may find Lupu's relationship with the composer a bit brusque and old school. While there was no sense of ''early Beethoven'' in the two Op. 14 sonatas, (Nos. 9 and 10), the pianist's straightforward take had the supple expression and mercurial spin to bring out the works' improvisatory qualities with their dynamic jolts and hectic humor.