By R.M. Campbell
Until pianist Ingrid Fliter was awarded the Gilmore Artist Award four years ago, she was little known beyond the borders of her native Argentina. That coveted prize gave her international press she could not buy and launched her career. Prestigious dates at prestigious halls and with prestigious conductors followed quickly. So did a recording contract with EMI.
The Gilmore competition is not a competition in the ordinary sense of musicians gathered together to do battle. Instead, a jury known to no one but its members and Gilmore officials fly about the world listening to pianists incognito and then pass judgment behind closed doors. Once the award is announced, the musician is given not only a cash award but engagements in major cities across the globe. It is one of the most respected prizes on the planet.
Good things have been heard about Fliter since she won award. At last she made it to Seattle to appear Thursday night at the Seattle Symphony’s Mainly Mozart Series. Her assignment was Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D (H.XVIII:11). It is not a vehicle a soloist would often choose because it does not offer so many places to display one’s musical abilities and technical prowess. But Fliter made the most with what she was given. She played quickly and cleanly with no undue romanticism. The reading was efficient, getting all the notes and giving them some shape and articulation. But Fliter did not she plumb any depths but then I am not sure how deep Haydn’s piano concerto goes. If one were to offer some criticism, it would be speed, too much speed, so that she turned beautiful music into sometimes little more than technical exercises.
James Gaffian was the conductor. Born in New York, he is young, hovering around 30. Despite his age, he has wasted little time in establishing himself on the podium, having conducted any number of major orchestras, and I assume well. In January he was appointed chief conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. He has served as assistant conductor of the San Francisco and Cleveland orchestras.