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Music School: Carroll Chilton, piano

J. S. Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903
Debussy: Deux Arabesques
Debussy: Estampes
Debussy: Etudes
   Pour les cinq doigts
   Pour les tierces
   Pour les sonorités opposées
   Pour les arpèges composés
   Pour les accords
Robert Evett (1922-1975): Capriccio (1946)
Robert Crane (b. 1919): Sonatina
Chopin: Nocturne, Op. 55, No. 2
Chopin: Sonata in B Minor, Op. 58

Carroll Chilton, piano


Pianist Carroll Chilton is a highly respected teacher who will retire from the UW School of Music faculty at the end of the current academic year. His recital Sunday evening is not easy to characterize.

In all but the first of the well-known works presented on this long program, the same three problems manifested repeatedly, with serious consequences for the music: a dynamic concept constricted within the mezzoforte to fortissimo range; a wavering, sometimes absent rhythmic foundation; and a rushed character created by not completing one phrase before beginning the next. It's tempting to ascribe it all to nervousness, but intending no disrespect, that seems a bit of a stretch. Chilton has formidable finger technique, so solid I have the impression he could play just about anything. But the end result was that purely pianistic values overwhelmed and obscured lyrical and formal ones.

The Bach, which Chilton mentioned having learned on the harpsichord, was the recital's most successful work, I felt, exhibiting only the rushing problem and that not everywhere. But the absence of piano and pianissimo playing at appropriate places in the Debussy and Chopin was incomprehensible to me. There too rhythmic indefiniteness tended to disrupt the musical flow, bending the line far out of shape. Of the five Debussy etudes offered, only Pour les arpèges composés came off fairly well. In the Chopin sonata, I thought the scherzo was too slow and the slow movement was too fast.

The Evett and Crane works were unfamiliar to me, though because Crane, now retired, was for many years a faculty composer and theory teacher here, I'd heard a few of his pieces. I liked the Evett Capriccio quite a bit; it had great variety and a broad, open sound nicely contrasting with demandingly brilliant passages. Harmonically and pianistically it somewhat recalled Hindemith, I thought.

Mills Hall was about two-thirds full of students, faculty and local music-lovers, including many pianists. I couldn't help wondering whether some of them were as troubled as I by this concert. The applause was warm and prolonged, however.

Madison Music Review, September, 2001
Copyright 2001 Jess Anderson

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