MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

“Dans le caractère populaire roumain”

A few evenings ago, members of the Seattle Symphony joined with some guests for its latest installment in this season’s series of chamber concerts.

I especially enjoyed hearing Alexander Melnikov as the pianist in a Shostakovich’ masterpiece (the Second Piano Trio, his memorial to Ivan Sollertinsky), just two days after the pianist’s triumph with the full SSO in playing Beethoven. The 19-year-old Leonard Bernstein’s Piano Trio and the Elliott Carter Woodwind Quintet of 1948 also stood out for me.

But the indisputable highlight came right at the center, with a riveting, soulful, hugely dramatic performance of George Enescu’s Op. 25 Sonata No. 3 in A minor for Violin and Piano from 1926 (titled “dans le caractère populaire roumain”). SSO violinist Mikhail Shmidt and guest pianist Oana Rusu Tomai took all sorts of risks that paid off in this fascinating, epic-sounding piece.

And now I can’t get it out of my head. The YouTube performance above is from 1936 and features the brother-sister team of Yehudi and Hephzibah Menuhin.

Filed under: Enescu, Seattle Symphony, Shostakovich chamber music, violinists

2 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t you like the Prokofiev Duo for two violins? Or were you absent for that one?

    • Thomas May says:

      Actually this post wasn’t intended as a full-scale review; I initially thought I’d just talk about the Enescu, since that work has been haunting me in particular. I ended up mentioning the other pieces but unfortunately overlooked the Prokofiev, which I
      certainly heard, and I’m grateful for the experience.

      Indeed the Prokofiev Sonata for 2 Violins (Op. 56) received an impressive performance by Jeannie Wells Yablonsky and Emma McGrath. I especially admired how they captured the “once-upon-a-time” quality of the muted Commodo movement. It was great to hear this rarely encountered piece and I’m sorry I overlooked mentioning it the first time.

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