Mark Westcott Artist, Piano Teacher, Lecturer, Author

MUSIC in Mid-American

At Shawnee Mission East High School. Program: Deutsche Taenze, Op. 33, Schubert; Sonata in B-Flat, Op. 106 ("Hammerklavier"), Beethoven; Gaspard de la Nuit, Ravel.

Mark Westcott, of Portland, Ore., bearing in his train an important series of scholarships and awards, played the 11th annual scholarship benefit recital for the Kansas City alumnae chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota yesterday afternoon at Shawnee Mission East High School.

Westcott celebrated his 23rd birthday in August. The only thing youthful about his appearance here was his program (Vachel Lindsay: "Let not young souls be smothered out before they do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride"). He had the audacity to program both the Beethoven "Hammerklavia" sonata and the dazzling Ravel suite, "Gaspars de la Nuit," on the same program. Those, and an innocuous collection of German dances by Franz Schubert, constituted the entire afternoon recital. Did he bring it off? He did, handsomely.

Forgetting for the moment those Schubert dances, and they are easily forgotten, his test came in the Beethoven sonata. And there he showed the form, the style, which made him the only American to place (Third) in the last Van Cliburn international competition, and brought him to first place in the recent Matthay Festival competition at Maryland University.

Westcott at the keyboard is cool, rather detached. His temperament is in his hands, where it belongs, and there is nothing in the way of extraneous motion to distract from what one sees and hears. He has the effects, and his control of sonority - whether in large or in small scale - is extraordinary.

So, to the Beethoven. The opening movement was a study in crescendi carefully built in layers of intensity, and so was the second movement scherzo. In the slow movement, with its enigmatic quiet opening and extremely mysterious close, his control of the line as well as of dynamic contrast was no less than remarkable. He played well, but really did not transmit the unwieldy fugal movement (after the slow movement the magic was gone), but he hung in there gamely. Overall, it was playing of maturity and depth , and it roused the audience of some 400 people to sustain applause.

After the intermission, the Ravel. Many pianists can play all the noted of that virtuosic work, but how many can evoke the separate atmosphere of those three pieces (gauzy, watery, in Ondine; ghostly in Le Gibet; febrile and fantastic in Scarbo)? Mark Westcott can, and did. It was a splendid afternoon of music making. Given what he now has, it is anyone's guess what he may develop into.

John Haskins

Copied by Ben Serna-Grey

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