Review: A Teenage Virtuoso Prevails in a Liszt Endurance Test

The American pianist Maxim Lando first came to wide attention two years ago as Lang Lang’s left hand.

It was Carnegie Hall’s season-opening gala, and Mr. Lang — who had been scheduled to perform Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Philadelphia Orchestra — was still recovering from an injury. So Mr. Lando, then 14, shared a piano with Mr. Lang, his mentor, playing the left-hand part while Mr. Lang played the right. To round out the gimmick, the jazz pianist Chick Corea joined in for a freewheeling version of the piece: three pianists at two pianos.

Ever since, there hasn’t been an opportunity at Carnegie to hear Mr. Lando on his own — with both hands. But on Thursday he returned, now 17, to give his New York recital debut at Zankel Hall to inaugurate the 59th season of Young Concert Artists, having won its competition last year.

On a program that included demanding works by Nikolai Kapustin, Beethoven and Scriabin, Mr. Lando also performed the complete “Transcendental Études” of Liszt, a 70-minute endurance test. Schumann once described them as “storm and terror” études, with passages that “exceed all limits,” playable “at most by ten or twelve people in the whole world.”

Schumann’s last claim might still be true.

It’s possible that Mr. Lando will bring more breadth to the études as he matures. On Thursday, he was often caught up in the moment-to-moment complexities of the music, but he already has what it takes to dispatch it brilliantly.

The first begins with manic bursts of arpeggios that sweep up the keyboard and cascade down in crystalline riffs, finally breaking into a restless melodic line that unfurls amid rustling figurations and teeming chords. Mr. Lando played it with flinty sound and infectious exuberance.

He brought rich colorings and tenderness to the dreamy “Paysage” étude and conveyed the hellbent fervor of “Mazeppa,” with its staggering bursts of octaves. He played with impressive delicacy in the watery, but fiendishly intricate “Feux follets.” There was wild-eyed danger in the aptly titled “Wilde Jagd,” and the final “Chasse-neige” was a shifting mass of radiant tremolos and spiraling runs.

Master pianists can better orchestrate, in a sense, the multilayered textures of these études than Mr. Lando did at Zankel. Then again, he only recently turned 17 — which is also why it was charming when he told the audience how he had been dreaming of playing this program for many years.

His lack of development as an artist was suggested by his mannered performance of Beethoven’s late Sonata No. 30 in E. Like his mentor, Mr. Lando had a penchant for pulling phrases out of shape with expressive tugs and twists. Even in Romantic repertory, like the Liszt, such a liberal use of rubato can be overdone. What Mr. Lando may have intended as deeply expressive seemed affected.

But Mr. Lando is still a student, in the pre-college program at the Juilliard School. He has time galore to grow.

Maxim Lando

Performed on Thursday at Zankel Hall, Manhattan.

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