Reviews

Impromptu Concert - Thomas Pandolfi, January 10, 2016

"It was a spectacular concert, earning Mr. Pandolfi four standing ovations in response to each set and after both encores ... He covered both sides of Liszt's writing superbly with technique to spare on the virtuoso passages and an exceptionally refined touch on the slower, legato ones ... Mr. Pandolfi's playing on music by Ponce, Granados, Lecuona and de Falla was again exceptional ... some of the most impressive piano playing I've heard."

Konk Life Editor, Key West


The 31st Distinguished Artists Series opened last month in Santa Cruz at the Peace United Church with a passionate piano recital by Thomas Pandolfi in his “Classics with a Touch of Poetry” recital. Included were muscular Mozart, soulful Schubert, big Beethoven, and the many-sided Liszt—especially a dream of love and a huge wrestling match with the devil. Pandolfi’s program ended with a fantasy on Lloyd-Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.

Mozart’s Sonata in F major, K. 332 may be from the Classic period, but Pandolfi gave it a big, romantic reading using quite a bit of pedal, dramatic contrasts and unusual touches that were music to the ears of this reviewer and the large audience as well. Schubert’s early and beloved Impromptu in A-flat Major, Op. 90, No. 4 sandwiches a melodic, lyrical middle between two outer sections of quick finger skips, a robust reading that continued Pandolfi’s intensely moving and original style.

Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 13 “Pathétique,” from 1797, breaks the classical mold in its mysterious first movement, which Pandolfi explored like a forensicist; huge contrasts of slow, funereal sections followed by explosive smashings out of the tomb, long slow singing lines and a rondo finale in exaggerated but controlled contrasts of speed. This was followed by Liszt’s ever-popular Liebestraum No. 3 in A-Flat Major (Dream of Love), originally intended to accompany a singer of poetry, but here the gorgeous melody sang out with ease for a delighted audience.

Pandolfi gave a truly great reading of Liszt's "Dante" Sonata. Its middle angelic chorale book-ended by the strident opening and closing, Pandolfi’s whole body was engaged in the thrashing and striving tumultuous energy under controlled fury. The big Yamaha provided an almost fathomless power for this mortal combat, emerging unscathed and triumphant (as did the pianist) while putting the devil back in hell with a smooth “Perfect 5th “ conclusion.

The first encore was Pandolfi’s own take on Lloyd-Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, a Liszt-style paraphrase during which I could actually visualize Sarah Brightman (the composer’s ex-wife) singing on stage. Concluding the generous and demanding recital was the ever-popular slow and simple Chopin Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2, his most famous, played with a lot of rubato amid the golden voicings of the Yamaha CFX concert grand, but by now a calming effect upon an enthusiastic audience, very attentive through the musical offerings of this strikingly original pianist from Washington, D.C. If only our US Congress could be half as effective as Maestro Pandolfi is.

Richard Lynde, Performing Arts Monterey Bay


"Thomas Pandolfi is an exceptional virtuoso pianist who enjoys a comfortable connection with the audience. Not only is he a convincing artist at the piano, but he is also skillful in engaging the audience before each piece with helpful comments on what to expect to hear — and he is as comfortable using a microphone to introduce each piece as he is in the actual performances...It’s a pleasure to hear difficult music when the performer has such masterful control over its technical demands...Perhaps that sense of ease is one of Pandolfi’s greatest assets...His performance of Liszt's Dante Sonata was riveting, not only because of the bazillion notes required in the score, but because Pandolfi built the architecture of the piece in a way that the listener could clearly follow. The middle section elicited some of the most delicate playing of the entire program.

"Along with the apparent ease of playing, Pandolfi plays with an economy of motion. There is no extraneous or wasted motion even in the most virtuoso passages. One would expect the Liszt Sonata to exhaust the energy of the player, but there was plenty more to go with two encores. The fireworks heard earlier in the program continued through, bringing to memory some of Vladimir Horowitz’s grand and pianistic transcriptions. The fireworks shifted to a warm closing statement in the second encore, Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Op. 9, No. 2, played with poetic beauty."

Peninsula Reviews, Roger Emanuels, Santa Cruz, CA


"Hearing Thomas Pandolfi live in recital is an experience one is not likely to forget. He doesn’t sound like any other pianist we have ever heard. He is an original!...His two Chopin Nocturnes, Op. 9, No. 2 and Op 15, No. 1, his Mazurka, the Waltz in C-sharp Minor, and the more lyrical of the Chopin Etudes were elegant with lovely shaped phrases and such a richly vibrant cantabile it almost convinced me that the piano sound was being amplified... After intermission Pandolfi surprised us by inserting a piece not listed on the printed program — Intermezzo No. 1 by Manuel Poncé. This was a remarkable performance full of color, exquisitely controlled dynamics and Pandolfi’s amazing trademark super cantabile. The following work, Paderewski’s Minuet, Op. 14, No. 1, was played with the same kind of bold color and imagination, so that the piece just seemed inevitable in his hands. It was difficult to imagine it being played any better.

"It was the last three works — the solo version of Gershwin’s 'Rhapsody in Blue,' Pandolfi’s own amazing arrangement of themes from 'The Phantom of the Opera' and his clever embellishment of Zez Confrey’s 'Dizzy Fingers'– that truly brought the audience to its feet with a round of spontaneous bravos and prolonged applause...inch by inch, sound by sound, Mr. Pandolfi won me over in a big way."

Peninsula Reviews, Lyn Bronson, Paso Robles, CA


"It’s not uncommon for rising classical artists to reach a point in their recording ventures where they’ll issue an album of 'encores' they like to perform at the end of concert evenings. Few if any do what Thomas Pandolfi does in his new CD, After the Applause – tuck purely classical bon-bons in the middle, sandwiched by a big opening fantasy right out of Broadway and a closing medley of American patriotic songs.

"Pandolfi’s opening Phantom Phantasy is a representation in sound of what his local fans know of him live – a Juilliard-trained pianist with unabashed showmanship...Pandolfi has a way of making a grand piano sound like it must have 188 keys, not just 88. And the closing patriotic flourish of the CD in Pandolfi’s America Fantasy is right out of the playbook of legendary 20th-century pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who loved to work up crowds in Middle America and elsewhere with glitzy pianistic stylings of flag-waving songs... an amazingly diverse mix of wild virtuosity and sublime songfulness. Pandolfi puts one of the most entertaining two and a quarter minutes of piano music you are ever likely to encounter right on the second track of the CD. It’s a musical merry-go-round called Dizzy Fingers by an early American jazz and ragtime pianist, Zez Confrey.. I dare you to stop watching his YouTube video clip (from the recording session) in the middle!

"On the rest of the disc, most striking are a lilting but deceptively sophisticated grand waltz by French composer Déodat de Séverac, and an Adagio originally composed for oboe and string orchestra but lovingly adapted for the piano by Earl Wild. Smack in the middle of the CD is a 10-minute virtuoso masterpiece, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12. And sprinkled around the album are songs by George Gershwin in some of Gershwin’s – and Pandolfi’s own – virtuoso stylings."

David Rohde, DC Metro Theatre Art


"Thomas Pandolfi and the South Florida Symphony: Hope, Dreams and Tenacity ... Pianist Thomas Pandolfi stole the night with his solo finale of a mix of music from Phantom of the Opera. Featuring flourishes reminiscent of Liberace, this tour de force was preceded by his interpretation of Gershwin's iconic Rhapsody in Blue. Here he showed an emotive connection with the music approaching that of the great Glenn Gould. In introducing the Rhapsody, he described it as a 'most unique and fantastic piece.' Technically masterful and wonderfully satisfying."

Sun News Miami


"On Saturday night Thomas Pandolfi delivered an exhilarating performance of Rachmaninoff’s magnificently tuneful Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor...what Pandolfi achieved with the McLean Orchestra was a rare mix of technical accuracy and cool confidence that created a masterful path through the concerto...preserved was the start-to-finish drama, rather than disjointed pieces of “business” just to display the pianist's chops. Pandolfi also managed a trick that eludes even some celebrated pianists with Rachmaninoff’s music, which is to avoid transferring the power of the concerto’s thunderbolt bass notes to the top notes...by gracefully teasing out melodies and countermelodies, as well as luscious rolling chords, Pandolfi kept what could otherwise come across as percussive playing within the melodic structure of the full concerto...the effect was seamless, comprehensible and satisfying."

David Rohde, DC Metro Theatre Arts


"Pianist Thomas Pandolfi presented a brilliant program on March 21 at the Illinois Central College Performing Arts Center...Pandolfi, an incredible talent, played hard, fast and loud, on a concert grand with a terrific sound...This was a dynamic evening, from the appeal of Gershwin to the incredible talent of Pandolfi, who played every piece perfectly from memory, with hands moving so fast they were a blur to the eyes...Amazing...It was a virtuoso performance which needed no strobe lights or explosions to carry the evening. Pandolfi need only his Juilliard-honed talent."

Peoria Story


"The Frederick Collection’s recent acquisition, a 1928 Érard, gave its local debut Sunday in the Historical Piano Concerts series in Ashburnham. For this auspicious occasion, the Fredericks welcomed for his third appearance on their series, Gershwin specialist, Thomas Pandolfi ... for Gershwin lovers, it was a bonanza, and a superbly rendered one, that also displayed the glittering musicality and the power of this piano ... Sprinkled in between the Gershwin works were short works by French composers, all of which were equally beautifully played and which showed off the quieter side of the instrument’s broad range. From the over-the-top bravura of the Concerto in F to the serene calm of Claude Debussy’s best known piece, the Clair de lune, this well-crafted program was tailor-made for this instrument, which is a real gem because of its similarities to and differences from modern pianos."

The Boston Musical Intelligencer


"Williamsburg experienced a phenomenon at the Kimball Theatre on Friday evening. An explosion of pianistic virtuosity, not heard here in recent memory, was presented by Thomas Pandolfi, internationally known concert pianist who is a Juilliard graduate and Steinway artist. He delighted his audience with an all-Gershwin program...the packed house responded with great acclaim as he concluded the 'Rhapsody in Blue' and launched into a total change of pace with improvisations on melodies from Andrew Lloyd-Webber's 'Phantom of the Opera.' It was a breathtaking concert!"

The Virginia Gazette


Thomas Pandolfi: the Spectacular and the Sublime

"Pandolfi played the Liszt works in what might well be characterized as the epitome of a Lisztian style, not holding back any energy in his approach to the keyboard in the virtuosic pieces. He was appropriately more restrained in the quieter ones, and in all of the Chopin pieces, controlling the dynamics from fff, maybe even ffff to ppp superbly. The mastery of the scores, the precision of the playing, and the finesse of the expression were all simply spectacular. It was a truly bravura performance, both in the virtuosic and in the reflective pieces, yet one completely without gratuitous exaggerated display.

"The brilliance of Pandolfi's playing was significantly enhanced by his excellent spoken program notes in which he talked about the atmosphere, the style, and the structure of each piece, with occasional demonstrations that helped listeners understand and appreciate what they were learning. Several acquaintances spoke directly to me about the lecture, and I overheard yet others talking about it, a stark contrast with similar spoken notes by many other musicians. He certainly made Liszt sound better to me than I have ever heard him."

The Boston Musical Intelligencer


"Mr. Pandolfi's style is technically sound throughout, as one would certainly expect of a Juilliard graduate and seasoned touring player. The first half of the concert elegantly demonstrated this, concluding with Chopin's familiar and inspirational "Heroic" Polonaise, but the second half really allowed him to take off. Gershwin, afterall, has elements of pop, blues and jazz, which Mr. Pandolfi exploited beautifully, particularly in his take on "Rhapsody in Blue", which contained more pointed syncopation and blues elements than the garden-variety interpretations ... the audience consumed it with relish."

The Finger Lakes Times


"Pianist Thomas Pandolfi lent depth and perception to Beethoven's Choral Fantasy, clearly enunciating the probing, even groping, cast to this work, which Beethoven himself categorized as an anticipation of the Ninth Symphony Finale."

The Washington Post


"The high point of the concert was Thomas Pandolfi's playing of two pieces by Franz Liszt, the '12th Hungarian Rhapsody' and 'Liebestraum', followed by Chopin's 'Heroic Polonaise'...all too often (these works) are reduced to displays of great technique. Mr. Pandolfi's technique was the equal of that of any of the flashier pianists, but was invariably and securely in service of the music. His playing has exceptional power when that is needed; he can also play delicately, bringing out to the full whatever emotions the music is designed to evoke. If there are resources in the piano that he did not draw on, I don't know what they are. It was as impressive piano playing as I've heard."

The Key West Citizen (Solares Hill)


"Thomas Pandolfi is enjoying international acclaim, and the audience who witnessed his 'over the top' performance left the theatre knowing they had seen one of the best in the business."

Conch Color (Key West)


"Spectacular and impressive...such an opener (Liszt's Dante Sonata) can end up being either a triumph or a disaster; in this case, it was the former, bringing the audience to its feet."

Classical Voice of New England


"Pandolfi Brings Gershwin to the Opera House"

"As part of the Finley/Star Batrouny Great Performers Concert Series, Pandolfi commenced his all Gershwin recital with a solo version of the Concerto in F...as he threw himself into the first movement, it was easy to see why Pandolfi had been invited to perform, since his showmanship and emphasis on the dramatic aspects of the work were in full force. So much so, in fact, that as he brought the first movement to a thundering close, the audience forgot there were two more movements and reacted with a vigorous round of applause...the second movement continued relaxed and playful, while the third was sufficiently punchy and energetic. Pandolfi's arrangements of six well known Gershwin melodies were expertly performed and very well received...After intermission, Pandolfi brought what was probably the best performance of the evening to the table with Earl Wild's Two Etudes on Popular Gershwin Songs, showcasing the performer's virtuosic talents...the dramatic performance of Rhapsody in Blue brought the audience to their feet in a rousing ovation...one of the most impressive things about Pandolfi's performance was how much sound he was able to bring forth out of the instrument."

The Observer


"Gershwin's Music at Fredonia Opera House"

"Pandolfi's technique is brilliant. Every note, however fleeting, was cleanly and clearly stated, and themes rolled out of supporting structures, as clear as could be...the climax of the concert was the famed Rhapsody in Blue (in a solo arrangement created by Gershwin himself), performed with thrilling virtuosity. It was jazzy, it was classical, it was Gershwin, wonderfully done."

Fredonia Post-Journal


"Virtuosity, beautiful touch, sensitivity and broad scope...logical phrasing and expressive percussiveness...a soloist whom we would like to hear again."

Bucharest Cultural Observer


"Thomas Pandolfi, the soloist for the Asheville Symphony Orchestra, is a standout among today's young pianists... the climax of the evening's concert came in Pandolfi's superb performance of Liszt's Piano Concerto No.2 he demonstrated a great technician's grace, finesse, and polish. His virtuosity and strength, expressed in his thundering statements of the thematic material in the first movement, might have had some believing that Liszt himself had taken over the keyboard."

Asheville Citizen-Times


"Thomas Pandolfi sunk into Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major as if he wrote it himself, enjoying the concerto as much as the audience; he listened intently to the nuances of the orchestra, and seemed to have an organic rapport with conductor Laycock."

The Trenton Times


"Pandolfi played with the flair and bravado necessary to be true to Grieg's masterpiece, the Piano Concerto in A minor ... after receiving a standing ovation, Pandolfi performed an encore of two George Gershwin classics. His spirited performance made it easy to understand why Pandolfi has been praised for his innovative interpretations of Gershwin's music."

The Cedar Rapids Gazette


"Liszt's Concerto No. 1 for Piano in E-Flat (with The Lima Symphony Orchestra) allowed Pandolfi to show his capabilities with the keys. Up and down the keyboard he went, both in huge chords and lyric melodies...his hands caressed the instrument ... a standing ovation was nearly immediate ... the skill he showed was indeed impressive."

The Lima News


"Among the highlights of the gala opening night (with The Mississippi Symphony Orchestra) was Franz Liszt's Concerto No. 1 for Piano, in E-flat with solo by pianist Thomas Pandolfi. Pandolfi, who has a growing reputation as one of the finest young pianists of his generation, drew bravos for his passionate performance."

The Clarion-Ledger


"Thomas Pandolfi's recital revealed an artist who is the master of both the grand gesture and the sensual line. His program was the selection of a thinker---pieces by Liszt, Scriabin, Schubert, Barber and Tchaikovsky-- that called for musical imagination along with athleticism, and restraint along with stormy declamation. Pandolfi's large- scale pianism seems to emerge out of careful thought and close concentration. The fact that his playing always seemed under tight control in no way muted the passion of his performance the opening "Apres Une Lecture du Dante" by Liszt was projected with an exquisite sense of lyrical gesture. The Scriabin D-flat Nocturne for left hand alone was wonderfully transparent and nicely shaped. Pandolfi handled the rhythmic asymmetry of Barber's Ballade smoothly and always on the front end of the beat. His reading of the Schubert a minor Sonata was lighthearted and exceptionally articulate."

The Washington Post


"International prize winning pianist Thomas Pandolfi, received shouts of "BRAVO's" and enthusiastic applause from audience members. An unusual pianist because of the youth and intensity, technical brilliance and clarity of his playing. Don't miss him. Mr. Pandolfi's gestures and grandiloquence brought to mind Van Cliburn in Moscow, and his growing reputation as one of the finest young pianists of this generation make us wonder how age will improve this fine musician. A treasure for all, Thomas Pandolfi will for sure be back!"

The Winchester Star


"Pandolfi Performs A Stunning Concert"

"Thomas Pandolfi magnificently performed a program designed to appeal to every taste. Mr. Pandolfi plays with authority, clarity, and an unusual beauty. Scale passages and trills approaching perfection were performed with ease. The opening Haydn Sonata in F was beautifully presented, but the Prokofiev Sonata in a minor was the stunner of the evening, enormously moving in its crashing, sonorous bass motifs, played not only with mastery, but also with great feeling. This is an artist's artist, never to be missed in future concerts!"

Greenbelt News Review


"Pandolfi's Pop Piano"

"At the Arts Club of Washington, pianist Thomas Pandolfi took another step toward becoming one of the area's favorite young musicians. Evident in other recent Washington performances, his ability to charm audiences was seen and heard once again as he captured the essence of each musical composition he performed."

The Washington Post


"Playing with the Bach Sinfonia, Thomas Pandolfi gave the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 9 a healthy, extroverted performance, taking the tricky third movement register leaps accurately and in tempo, and never prettifying the music's wit and verve."

The Washington Post