Having heard pianist Jura Margulis fifteen times previously in recital at Hidden Valley, we had every reason to believe his solo recital yesterday afternoon would take us on a special musical journey. We were not to be disappointed. Not only did his recital contain some very significant music, but it also displayed his mastery that enhanced the music he performed rather than merely showing off his brilliant technique. Not surprisingly he attracted a capacity audience.
What was particularly in evidence on this occasion was Margulis’s skills as a composer/arranger, for virtually half the program was devoted to works by Schumann and Schubert in arrangements or enhancements by Margulis. The two Schumann/Liszt song transcriptions we hear most often are Widmung (Dedication) and Frühlingsnacht (Spring Night), but now Margulis has added three songs from Dichterliebe that deserve a place in the piano repertoire. From serene to emotionally stirring, his arrangements were pianistically effective and sounded beautiful on the piano.
His Schubert group contained not only Liszt’s famous arrangement of Der Wanderer, but also Margulis’s Valse Caprice arrangement of several Schubert waltzes, originally arranged by Liszt, but further enhanced in a spectacular manner with by Margulis. Ending the Schubert group was an over-the-top version of the famous original four-hand Marche Militaire arranged by Margulis for solo piano. This was an impressive, even spectacular, performance with a powerful cadenza and coda. Wow!
Sandwiched in between the Schumann and Schubert, Margulis performed three of the twelve pieces from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons: June – Barcarolle, October – Autumn Song, and November – Troika. Margulis played these three works with a conviction that brought new life to them. A combination of charm, colorful imagination, and absolute mastery under his hands always emphasized the musical qualities over the pianistic demands.
After intermission, we heard that great masterpiece, one of the ten greatest works ever written for the piano, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Although we learned later in speaking with the artist after the concert that this is a new piece in his repertoire, we are convinced that it must have been gestating successfully in his mind during the past several decades, for it emerged last night in a masterful performance that was a delight from beginning to end.
After returning several times to receive standing-ovation accolades, he declined to give us an encore, for, after all, after such a meaningful and spectatular performance of the Mussorgsky, nothing more needed to be said. Margulis promises to return next year, and his program will consist of the last three sonatas by Beethoven.
We will be there.