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Review by David Richards
Stratford ON, August 18 2016

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LUCA BURATTO’s piano finds all the contrasts in Debussy, Schumann and Beethoven!

Luca Buratto(piano) and John A. Miller(artistic director); photo by Jan Richards

Jan and I were happy to be sheltered from the rain as we arrived at St. Andrew’s Church in Stratford last night; little did we know that we were about to go through another rain storm, albeit a musical one in the recital by the Italian virtuoso pianist, Luca Buratto. The concert was the third in the International Piano Series which is part of the Stratford Summer Music Festival.

Buratto chose a program of contrasts with music of Debussy, Schumann and Beethoven, composers with whom he has an uncommon affinity. At the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition just eleven months ago, Buratto impressed audience and judges alike with his brilliant performances of these and other composers to become the competition’s Prize Laureate. For the past seven weeks, he has been immersed in chamber music as one of a select group of artists participating in the renowned Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont.

The aforementioned musical rain storm came in the first work of the program, Claude Debussy’s Estampes. The work evokes three very divergent images. The first movement entitled Pagodes, gives impressions of East Asia with its pentatonic undercurrent, Japanese and Chinese-like melodies, and Javanese Gamelin sounds. The second movement, La soirée dans Granade presents a colourful image of Spain with its Habanera rhythms and suggestions of guitar and castanets. It was the third movement, Jardins sous la pluie that was suggestive of the wind and weather outside. Buratto was brilliant in an energetic portrayal of the continuous pounding of the rain, wind and violent outbursts of thunder.

Next, Buratto took us back in time to a masked ball in Vienna with Schumann’s Papillons. The ‘papillons’ or ‘butterflies’ refer to the masks worn by the various colourful characters that are portrayed in twelve short sections. The contrast of the movements is striking and perhaps reflective of Schumann's bi-polar nature. There is gaity in the dances; at other time jealous anger is expressed. There is a poignant moment in a melodious section wherein the phrase sings out a gentle tender melody. 

The first half of the concert concluded with another work by Debussy. This time it was a tour de force, L’Isle joyeuse, an exuberant work with whole tone and modal writing that required all of Buratto’s virtuosity. Indeed, Buratto dazzled the audience.

Following the intermission, we heard a second work by Robert Schumann, Blumenstück in D-flat Op. 19. It is an intimate love poem intended for Schumann's fiancée, Clara Wieck.

The evening of contrasts couldn’t have concluded more dramatically than with Beethoven’s Sonata No.23 in F minor Op. 57, “Appassionata”. Buratto gave this monumental work  all of the energy called for within the score. It was a firestorm of passion ending with such a flurry that I half expected to 'see' the explosion that was erupting from the piano.

Luca Buratto is a complete musician on the rise. At age 22, he is as equally comfortable with chamber music as he is with the large romantic concertos. Buratto is in demand as a collaborative pianist as well as a solo artist. In the coming months he will be performing in western Canada, Italy and Singapore, while at the same time beginning his studies at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Buratto's next performances in Ontario will be with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on April 22nd and 23rd, 2017 at which time he will perform Mozart's Piano Concerto No.25, K.503.

The Stratford Summer Music Festival will continue to provide a wide variety of music through to the end of August under the leadership of Artistic Director, John A. Miller. The final concerts in the International Piano Series will take place at St. Andrew’s Church on Friday, August 26th and Saturday, August 27th with Canadian superstar Jan Lisiecki.

Luca Buratto, Photo by Jan Richards