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A Major Debut
The [Juilliard Orchestra concert] began on a high note with a wonderfully life-affirming version of the tuneful Glinka overture, the strings bright and sparkling, the propulsion strong and energetic. The proceedings took on an even more exciting provenance as we were all treated to the major debut of a significantly talented and mature performer. ... The good news for pianists about the Prokofieff concerti is also the bad news: the composer wrote them all (except, of course, for the left-handed one) as vehicles to feature his own extraordinary talents. This is great if one is up to the task, the long cadenzas and showy arpeggiated sections extremely splashy, but the down side is their ferocious difficulty. Prokofieff was a relatively tall man, although not a giant like Klemperer or Rachmaninoff, but he was blessed with inordinately large hands and had little sense of the limitations of lesser pianistic lights. To communicate these big canvasses effectively requires qualities which Ms. Martinez, a native of Venezuela, possesses in spades.

What was most impressive about this soloist [in Prokofieff's Piano Concedrto No. 2] was her audacious courage (certainly not learned at overly cautious Juilliard). The proud owner of an extremely strong left hand, Ms. Martinez was willing to take all of the risks necessary for an extremely powerful first movement realization. This was not simply hitting all of the notes; this was forceful epic poetry. She executed like a champion, with a "Rubinstein reach" that sometimes landed her in inner voice trouble, but that always stood her in good expressive stead. This concerto is the least performed of the five, and one listening easily gives clues as to why it is avoided by many otherwise fine practitioners. This is music making without a net, exciting, even breathtaking, when it works as well as it did for this superb aspirant this night. Further, it seemed that Ms. Martinez was the leader of this rendition, egging her colleagues on to greater heights of expression, the snarling of the high brass and the signature ironic bottom of the bass trombone and tuba grappling in some prehistoric tundra fight. The pianist set her own standards very high, whizzing through the notorious scherzo virtually flawlessly and enunciating the poetry of the intermezzo with an expressive touch beyond her years. I have been fortunate to hear hundreds of student performances in my lifetime; this was the best by far that I have experienced since I became a critic. If one word could sum up this reading it would be "confident." Remember this name: Alicia Gabriela Martinez.

Frederick L. Kirshnit, Concerto Net
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