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Monday, June 24, 2013

Backyard Musical Talent Ignored

Sadly Prescient Dept.: We roll back to 1984, near the start of my reviewing career. It took me but a few forays into the world of classical-music performances to realize how anti-provincial was the Albany area’s provincialism. At the time of Pola Baytelman’s Union College recital, reviewed below, she was an instructor at the college. She has since become Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at Saratoga’s Skidmore College, where she gave the 2006 Moseley Lecture-Recital, which is quite an honor.


Pola Baytelman
THERE SEEMS TO BE a reverse chauvinism at work among the classical nusic audience, causing them to disregard local, established talent in favor of the headline artist who blows into town for a very fat fee. It’s the audience’s loss. Where do they think those headliners come from but areas very much like this one, culturally rich enough to allow (if not to patronize) burgeoning talent?

A recital by pianist Pola Baytelman at the Union College Memorial Chapel in.Schenectady had, sadly, none of the crowd which throngs the chamber music series there. They missed a splendid concert.

Ms. Baytelman is a piano instructor at Union. She also is a concert artist who has appeared in concert halls and with orchestras all over the world; given the polish and brio she gave to Tuesday’s performance, it is easy to understand why.

The opening selections, from “Iberia” by Isaac Albeniz, are evocations of his native Spain. The first is titled, appropriately, “Evocacion”; the second, “Fete-Dieu a Seville,” depicts the Festival of Corpus Christi. They are romantic pieces that benefitted from Ms. Baytelman’s ability to draw out the emotional content, although in the second piece she tended to get so expressive that the march-like character lost its impact in the more raucous sections.

Beethoven’s Sonata No. 30 in E, Opus 109 is the first of his final three piano sonatas. It shares with them a revolutionary approach to form. In the case of this one, there are two fast movements in sonata form followed by a slow theme and variations. It requires technical excellence and an ability to see far beyond the notes, and Ms. Baytelman served both requirements impressively. She could have ended the program there and left a satisfied audience.

About a month ago, Ms. Baytelman performed Hilary Tann Presslaff’s “Doppelganger” at the chapel, at which time I wished for a chance to hear it again. This time the textures were more apparent, and the composer’s intention, to gently transform the nature of this at-first ponderous piece into something more lyrical, certainly is accomplished. Obviously, Ms. Baytelman is championing the work as much for its merit as for her professional association with the composer, who is also on the Union faculty.

– Albany Knickerbocker News, 26 May 1984

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