Los Angeles Times
November 18, 1996

Pianist Halim Backs the Boast


Eduardus Halim's publicity bills him as "the last student of Vladimir Horowitz" – a double-edged calling card if there ever was one.  You either live up to such a brag or look stupid for mentioning it.

But few who attended Halim's recital – Friday night in UCLA's Schoenberg Hall, where he offered a program of Chopin, Granados and Liszt – would begrudge him the billing.  The young Indonesian pianist is super-gifted, no doubt about it.  And he makes sure you know.

Even by today's standards of competition-conquering virtuosity, Halim seems an impressive specimen (though he has never done well in major competitions).  The colors and articulations at his disposal appear limitless.  The speed and cleanliness of his playing are of the jaw-dropping variety.

What's more, his technique is idiosyncratic.  Sitting low, palms down, his fingers arched acutely, Halim is capable of minute degrees of nuance and thus a breathless expressivity.  Coupled with his intense, often tersely cellular phrasing, it makes for highly inflected, engrossing piano playing.

Performing on a clarion Yamaha grand, Halim was best in the showiest material, particularly his program-ending romp through Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.  Here was grand, three-ring-circus theatricality.  In three selections from Granados' "Goyescas," Halim's playing was dazzlingly ornate and yet varied and directed with purpose.

The first half devoted entirely to Chopin was somewhat less successful, though still full of wonders.  It was just that, in five mazurkas and the miniatures that make up the 24 Preludes, a listener could begin to feel a bit claustrophobic among the riches.  But the Nocturne, Opus 48, No. 1, expanded slowly and ever upward.  The pianist smiled broadly and ingratiatingly to the applause – a distinctive musician all the way.