I was about to write my second-most-glowing piano-recital review in eight years (the first was of Hungarian pianist's Annie Fischer's performance last season) when I saw two piano-teaching friends racing for the door at intermission in disgust.
''Garbled pedaling,'' ''fuzzy musical concepts,'' they muttered angrily. I swallowed my what-planet-are-you-from reaction and listened: As longtime students of the Mozart Sonata in F major, K. 332 and Schubert Sonata in A major, D. 959, they had it on authority that - far from just a matter of ''taste'' - the performances were embarrassingly fast and undisciplined in phrasing.
But that is what critics said against Liszt himself, who with history's retrospection is now considered the piano's greatest exponent. Not so coincidentally, Liszt was Hungarian - as is Miss Fischer, who was trained by one of his pupils. Her playing is highly stylized. Tempos and phrasing become subservient to personal vision, in this case a fiery and romantic one - vibrant, if temperamental. You hear notes and phrases you've never heard before. Headstrong, she may accelerate to unsafe speeds, take a chance, and miss. You must suspend disbelief.
I listened more carefully the second half, trying to be as open minded as I wanted my friends to be, and saw their point, especially when Miss Fischer became fatigued. My final verdict is that art appreciation is a matter of taste. And by judging a performer against an agreed-upon perfect model we can often straitjacket our vision of the possibilities the music has to offer.
The 3,000 people who stood, stomped, and cheered her to two encores were on my side.