It was the kind of night they only have in Park City. It had just stopped raining and a fine layer of mist shrouded the aspen-covered mountains. The two sides of a rainbow shot out of a dark cloud and thunder rumbled in the distance. Inside the spacious wood-paneled Community Church, Robert Taub played a duet with God.
Considering his Partner and his international status as a concert pianist, it's a pity Taub didn't play better. It's true, the concert was free and intended for mathematicians rather than music critics, but an "internationally acclaimed leader in the new generation of virtuoso pianists" could have set a better example for his colleagues in the hard sciences.He began with some wild Scriabin etudes and a moody sonata by the same composer. The Sonata had some nice moments, especially when punctuated by thunder.
The Beethoven "Sonata Appasionata" began with great promise. Taub played the beginning with a clean, hearty melody. Even the afterthoughts were bombastic, as Beethoven should be. He opened the development with a subtly different character and his interpretation remained strong and true. However, there were some missed notes in the runs near the end of the first movement, which foreshadowed the piece's somewhat sloppy third movement.
He played the rustic and good-natured second movement lucidly, but a bit harshly. Beethoven's thick voicings came through clearly in the early variations as did Taub's interpretive intentions, but Taub could have been more relaxed and less heavy-handed in the gentler moments. He shined in a few variations, giving each its own character, but on the whole, the second movement seemed rough around the edges.
Before the second half began, someone official announced there would be a reception "following the last encore." As it would be impossible to exit the building without noticing the punch and cookies, the only reason for such an announcement would be to inform the audience to wait for encores before lunging at the snacks.
Although Taub had a few elegant moments, the Brahms "Variations on a Theme by Paganini" was simply not ready for performance. There were missed notes, botched rhythms and omitted measures. The Liszt "Da Campanella" transcription he played for a final encore ended the concert on a better note, but the evening was certainly not an example of Taub's best playing.