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Anthony Stark's compositions lovely in piano performance


Anthony Stark is well known to area music lovers as managing director of the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore and a member of the music faculty of the College of Notre Dame. On Saturday night, his talents as composer and performer were showcased at LeClerc Hall in "An Evening with Anthony Stark."

The program consisted entirely of Mr. Stark's piano compositions. In the first half, Mr. Stark performed "Three Waltzes," subtitled "Emily's Waltz" (1983), and "Moriniana: deux valses diversiones" (1979), as well as his "Sonata for piano solo" (1978). "Emily's Waltz," which the composer in his informative program notes describes as "appropriate for a young pianist," is a simple yet lovely and affecting work.

"Moriniana" consists of two waltzes Mr. Stark intends as "an expression of time past." The first "Lento assai" and second "Allegro" are connected by a common theme and indeed possess a haunting quality.

The "Sonata for Piano Solo" is dedicated to David Del Tredeci, Mr. Stark's "last and very influential composition teacher." The work consists of four extensive movements and makes liberal use of jazz syncopation. Mr. Stark notes that the work has an "improvisatory air," but the 27-minute piece displays the composer's fine ear for contrast and never meanders.

Mr. Stark admits that unlike his compositional work, he performs "with shyness and difficulty," but in general his playing was clear and effective.

The second half of the evening consisted of a single work, Mr. Stark's "Second Sonata: French Variations for solo piano" (1984). The sonata, dedicated to and composed in collaboration with pianist Edward Newman, is a series of three movements, each a set of variations based upon music by 19th-century French composer Cesar Franck.

The sonata was performed by Mr. Newman, a pianist of considerable gifts to whom the work was dedicated. Perhaps because the piece was composed with Mr. Newman's talents in mind, the Second Sonata presents far more technical hurdles than its predecessor, but the pianist met all of the work's demands (including strummed, muted and even whistled notes) with aplomb.

While one exposure to a piece is not sufficient to reach a final conclusion as to its merits, I was moved by Mr. Newman's rendition of Anthony Stark's "Second Sonata."

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