Monday, March 5, 2012

Leon Fleischer & Jaime Laredo - All-Schubert - 03/04/12

Schubert: Sonatina No 1 in D Major, D. 384
Schubert: Sonatina No 2 in A Minor, D. 385
Schubert: Sonatina No 3 in G Minor, D. 408
Schubert: Grand Duo for Violin and Piano in A Major, D. 574

After the riveting but decidedly dark journey that was Frank Ferko’s Stabat Mater on Saturday night, I figured that a little bit of refined light-heartedness was in order the next day. And that’s exactly what drew me to Town Hall yesterday afternoon for a recital by two longtime giants of the classical music scene, Leon Fleischer and Jaime Laredo. Both dedicated artists have taken up numerous roles  in the past few decades, among which soloist, conductor, chamber musician, pedagogue and mentor, which no doubt have allowed them to sharpen and expand their extraordinary talents that have kept audiences enthralled.
The road to this seemingly innocuous concert, however, turned out to be more treacherous than expected. Just as I got to the People’s Symphony Concert’s Website yesterday morning, I first noticed that the Bach pieces I was looking forward to hearing had disappeared and the program was now all Schubert. Next, while I was slowly coming to terms with the slight disappointment, I realized that the playlist may not matter after all because the concert was apparently sold out… and I did not have a ticket! Persistence, however, prevailed over procrastination as I was eventually able to buy a returned ticket at the box office before giddily proceeding into the historic theater with my friend Paula.

Although Schubert’s œuvre never instantaneously grabbed me the way others did, I’ve always found his chamber music truly inspired, so I did not have too much of a hard time leaving Bach behind and embracing the one and only composer of the day. Written when he was a mere 19 and 20-year old lad, the three sonatinas and the Grand Duo we got to hear yesterday could hardly compete with, for example, “The Trout” or my personal favorite, his String Quintet with two cellos, but they happily radiated the freshness and innocence of, well, youth.
The two masters on the stage couldn’t exactly qualify as “young” by any stretch of the imagination, but that did not stop them from delivering a totally engaging performance that discreetly highlighted the charming simplicity and Mozartian grace of those lovely sonatinas. It sounded as if it took Jaime Laredo a few measures to completely get into the groove, but Leon Fleischer’s supreme command of his craft was fully present from the very first note and never wavered.
Last, but definitely not least, the more mature and substantial Duo for Violin and Piano in A Major – Isn’t it incredible what a difference a year makes?! – concluded the recital with an increasingly complex and equal partnership between violin and piano, featuring a much wider and delightful range of moods and rhythms. Yet another reason to be grateful for that laid back and heart-warming winter afternoon in the company of old friends.

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