BSO players, continuing their online stand-in for a summer festival, took a “more is more” approach Friday night with a concert spotlighting the golden age of the violin virtuoso. In a show featuring more performers and half-again-longer run time than other recent Tanglewood streams, violinists Victor Romanul and Tatiana Dimitriades, collaborated with pianist Jonathan Bass and a quartet of other BSO players to spotless effect.
Victor Romanul began with a delightful variety of four solo works. Bach’s Chaconne from the D minor Partita had pride of place (could it be otherwise?), Romanul’s personal and sensitive interpretation extending the multidimensional aspects of the sacred score. He found a way to keep the opening statement, so often a scattered field of double stops and dissonances, full of pathos while keeping in an obvious inherent ¾ metrical structure, while maintaining distinct consistency of the voices in the fugue. In some sections he may have used dynamic extremes alien to Bach’s ears, but they worked wonderfully in context. Having most of the 16th-note choruses play the role of respites or asides not only lent structure and contrast to the work but also enhanced the human element of journeying. The last trill, leading directly into the final double-tonic was not romanticized, yet it impelled the desire to go forward to the conclusion with inevitability.
Romanul continued with a solo version of the slow movement from Paganini’s Guitar Quartet No. 13. Offering more than a palate pleaser, he pulled out the deepest meaning of its limited scope, portraying its longing and converting it from one part of a larger work to a self-sufficient song without words.
The Prelude from the Émile Sauret (1852 – 1920) Suite op. 68 Suite for Violin Solo, in keeping with “more is more,” surveyed both the prelude and the finale of the suite’s four movements thanks to an inventive bit of musical legerdemain that catapulted the listener from the impassioned chords of the prelude to fiery cascades of the finale in a flash. Romanul closed his section with J. Rosamond Johnson’s arrangement of “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See,” replete with idiomatic but soulful showmanship ― romantic yet distinctly American.
Violinist Tatiana Dimitriades and pianist Jonathan Bass then appeared onscreen with graceful and gracious take on Mendelssohn’s Violin Sonata in F Major, with Bass’s sensitive keyboard work coupling perfectly with Dimitriades’s superbly powerful and nimble violin phrasing. The second movement, a lullaby only in the sense of a Brahmsian recasting, throbbed and ebbed until the finale, a somewhat academic but masterfully played scherzo, lowered the curtain. Notwithstanding the expertise of the chops, and the understandable desire to have larger works followed by shorter pieces, the Mendelssohn reached the point where length began to show; perhaps a single movement would have sufficed.
The lullaby “Mother and Child” from William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Piano gave us quite a treat. Though playing together the duo fulfilled different complimentary roles, as the violin sang the words and the piano painted their images. The instruments later collaborated in a duet rising to realms beyond soulful. I purchased the sheet music online before the lullaby faded out.
Florence Price’s music is undergoing a renaissance since almost all of it was miraculously discovered in an attic a few years back. She has since emerged (re-emerged?) as a trailblazing African-American composer. The third and final pole of this musical tent show was set up by a string quartet comprising violinists Xin Ding and Catherine French, violist Daniel Getz, and cellist Mickey Katz. The bipartite slow movement of Price’s String Quartet in G Major opens with a homespun Fosteresque tune, until the waters get troubled by a pizzicato section featuring a fervent viola melody which is taken up by the full ensemble in textures as American as if Dvořák hailed from Arkansas.
It seemed only fitting then, to follow up with the Americanophile’s music, in this case his Terzetto in C, Op. 74. Like a lexicon of trio techniques, the first movement provides a perfect miniature along the lines of Mozart’s K. 136, albeit more romantic and Czech. In the slow movement the trio showed the depth of their ensemble, with even isolated chords ringing warm and rich. The third movement folk dance came off as a somewhat gentler version of Dvořák’s opening Symphonic Dance; the Theme and Variations took us on a tour of textures and styles, ending on a deliciously cheery note.
The concert remains online until July 31st.
Patrick Valentino, a graduate of New England Conservatory, is a Boston based conductor, composer, performer and author. More information can be found at his website.