Philadelphia classical music events, discussion, and directory
Curtis offered its 42nd student recital on Monday night and it was a knockout. Nigel Armstrong led off with two Paganini caprices, #4 and #24, as altered by his teacher, Arnold Steinhart. As must have thought it wasn't hard enough the way Paganini wrote it and made it harder. Armstrong has everything imaginable, a supple right arm, a nimble left hand, lots of personality and stage presence and musicianship, and a bow tie to boot. You don't see that much.
Second in the order was Brahms' Viola Sonata in E-flat major Op. 120, No. 2, for which he also made a clarinet version. Such a sound on the viola you rarely hear. It has none of all the fireworks characterizing the Paganini caprices, i.e. octaves, left-hand pizzicatos, impossible intervals-ninths and tenths. Nonetheless, its a very difficult piece and is absolutely transportational and sweet and moving that you feel swept away at times.
Finally, third before the intermission was Robert Schumann's Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 47. Say what you want about the quintet, this is a real work of art, a musical equivalent of a fine piece of sculpture. Ida Kavafian played viola--I wonder if she's giving up the violin since the last time I've seen her perform it was on the viola. She's wonderful, with a truly stupifyingly beautiful sound and great verve. You don't hear that word "verve" much. Amalia Hall, a normally not-at-all reticent violinist was rather subdued seeming more concerned with adjusting her wardrobe than playing out. But what I could hear was quite beautiful. Eric Han was fine on the cello and sounded great during the piece's gorgeous cello solo in the third movement, Andante cantabile.
After the intermission Yue Chu, with Herculean accompanying job by Michelle Cann playing the piano reduction of the orchestral part, banged out Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto. You really need to hear these concerts with full orchestra because when you have Piano and Piano, just about all you hear is a mass of notes. But some of the works wonderful parts come through nevertheless. Michele had the harder job. Those piano reductions are almost impossible for even the best pianist to master.
Having said it goes better with orchestra, I have to add that it's almost impossible to realize that goal. So, playing the concerto with piano reduction is about the only way the soloist will have to play that piece.
The next student recital is Wednesday night. It will be a treat, I'm sure.
Tim Bosworth is working on a book on the Curtis String Quartet.