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This live recital is a family affair in the sense that for Venezuelan pianist Sergio Tiempo, each piece in his programme reflects something of the character of his family. His wife was not much pleased with his feeling that her personality was captured in the manic insistence of Ginastera’s Malembo but such is his coltish brilliance that he may well have prompted her forgiveness!

Avid admirers of this pianist will recall his prodigy years captured on three Japanese Sony albums (these include a dazzling and witty refiguring of Chopin’s Études) suggesting a pianist of phenomenal talent who would hopefully mature into a true artist. Alas, this isn’t the case. In Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata, Tiempo resorts to gestures and a theatricality that deaden rather than enliven the music’s drama and impulse (his turning of the Andante con moto’s second variation into a virtuoso exercise is notably regrettable, and his force and velocity in the finale are only enviable at one level).

A lack of naturalness with much heavy underlining distorts his Brahms. He is on surer ground in his selection from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, with a feisty Juliet and a Mercutio of rare volatility. But again, in his choice of six Chopin Preludes, while you may wonder at his meteoric fight through No 16 (a near rival for Argerich), elsewhere you wish he would leave well alone. In his native South America, in Villa-Lobos, Ginastera and Piazzolla, he is entirely at home in both idiomatic command and extraordinary fleetness.

This well-recorded album features a plethora of photographs of Tiempo’s family – plus ‘Uncle Nelson’ Freire and ‘Aunt Martha’ Argerich, both key (perhaps excessive?) influences. Tiempo is the possessor of a prodigious gift, but to abuse it so!

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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