David Gross is a pianist with plenty of technique and musical understanding. At Leverett House Sunday afternoon he played works by Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. Gross performed with breadth of conception; he plays in continuous wholes, in entire pieces, rather than in contiguous notes and phrases. This is an elusive quality, more to be felt than analyzed, but it is a considerable merit and without it music cannot have true formal coherence.
Gross began with the C-minor Phantasie of Mozart. It was played with care and restraint, except perhaps in the pedalling, which seemed excessive. The piano, poor in tone and tune, may have been the cause of occasional blurs, especially in the lower register. Certain of Mozart's dynamic indications were given too extreme an interpretation. Una corda should probably be more sparingly used in Mozart, and Beethoven. Here again, some inadequacy in the piano itself may have been responsible.
Gross did some of his best playing of the afternoon in the next work, Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata. The first movement was crisp and sure, although now and then the tempo wavered; the second was free of the excess of sentiment by which it is so often destroyed; the third was just right.
Chopin's B-minor Scherzo was impetuous enough, but somehow a little unyielding. Three Brahms pieces concluded the program: Opus 11 No. 1, and Opus No.119 No.3 and No. 4. Gross played all the music in this last group with great energy, sometimes verging upon ferocity. His conception of this music is in the grand manner, with robust tempos and high-toned fortissimos. If an occasional passage was not executed with perfect technical ease, this did not destroy the total effect, not interrupt the continuity, which seems to be Gross' first concern. It is not surprising that such a spirited and musical pianist should hum as well as Serkin.