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Rita Kohn
Music Reviews
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Performance Reviews
Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center
United States
Indianapolis, IN

Petersen Plays Granados: More than Meets the Ear

by Rita Kohn
March 24, 2019
Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center
1400 E Hanna Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46227
(317) 788-3368
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
Virtuoso Pianist Drew Petersen lured layers of impromptu playfulness atop wistful romance from Enrique Granandos’ Valses poeticos. Within a minute into the vivacious introduction I was conjuring the presence of artfully placed figures. Melodico’s a-bit-off exact harmony tapped into imperceptible awakenings — a figurine wink here, a counter nod there; a foot flex, a shoulder lift. Full rise.

Of course, it was just Petersen and the piano center stage on March 22 at Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center's Ruth Lilly Performance Hall. And, of course I clearly was ‘seeing’ in my mind’s eye. Petersen is not a physically demonstrative player; his passion transmits diminutively. His approach to the piano in this moment, hands lightly hovering over the keys, airiness, soft caress; more vigor. So, yes, it seemed natural for me to see figures clad in white and black be at one with the music, growing with the playing into the unfolding story — their story, plucking from the bouquet the color of each added emotion. A visual interplay with sound growing into unity. First courtly in the noble Tempo de Valse; a beat. . reflective melancholy with Lento; then flowing each into the next: Allegro humoristico, Allegretto (elegant), Quasi ad Libitum— sliding into sentimental? Why? Suddenly full tilt hand over hand over hand over hand—Vivo, the battle— As Benedik and Beatrice in a merry war of wits? Chaotic as Katherine and Petruchio?

Recapitulating with the Coda—Presto, Andante, tempo dil 1. Vals the figures ease back into positions as they were, only now so much more fulsome despite immobility, as are the keys, still warm from Petersen’s touch, from his breathing in communion with Granados’ intent. The space remains redolent with vibrations of hammers on strings.

Such is the power of a player whose muse sanctions visualization of space suffused with vibrant movement. Valses poeticos is a wordless poem of seven stanzas, an introduction and a coda, singly and all together imparting colors and textures, sighs and smiles, deep swoops and circling slides. Knowing glances, familiarity of touch, tender, fragrant. Valses poeticos is one young man’s compositional paean translated a century later by another young man—perhaps as his expression of giving thanks at the close of a unique relationship with a community that has shown him much love and caring. Petersen closes out his tenure at the University of Indianapolis. In April 2019, the American Pianists Association will name a new Fellow.

Petersen came back to favor the full-house, appreciative audience with Franz Schubert’s equally richly poetic Fantasy in C Major, D. 760 (Wanderer”).

Following the intermission, Petersen joined the Indianapolis Quartet for Robert Schumann’s Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44.

The Indianapolis Quartet players include: Zachary DePue and Joana Genova, violin, Michael Isaac Strauss, viola, and Austin Huntington, cello.

Altogether, the program gifted with brilliant playing, sharing with us, as well, the grace of smart programming.


Drew Petersen, piano - 2017 Christel DeHaan Fellow, Winner 2017 American Pianists Association, University of Indianapolis Artist-in-Residence 2017-2019

American Pianists Association Christel DeHaan Fellow and Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient Drew Petersen is the University’s artist-in-residence. A prizewinner in major international competitions (Leeds, Hilton Head, Kosciuszko Foundation), he has been profiled in the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the documentary Just Normal. His travels have taken him to the Musica e Arte Festival in Italy, the Verbier Festival in Switzerland, the Euro Arts Music Festival in Germany and the Taos Festival in New Mexico. A cum laude graduate of Harvard University in social sciences, he pursued undergraduate and graduate studies in music at the Juilliard School.

Founded in 2016, The Indianapolis Quartet (Zachary DePue and Joana Genova, violins; Michael Isaac Strauss, viola and Austin Huntington, cello) is the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Indianapolis, reaching audiences through its unique musical language and emotional performance style. In addition to concerts, masterclasses and open rehearsals at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, The Indianapolis Quartet performs frequently throughout central Indiana, the Midwest and Vermont, exercising its mission to gradually expand its reach not only regionally, but also nationally and internationally, as it continues to build its repertoire of world-class music.
Indianapolis Quartet

Indianapolis Quartet

Photo © & courtesy of University Of Indianapolis

Drew Petersen

Drew Petersen

Photo © & courtesy of Dario Acosta

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