Tanglewood-in-quarantine continued, as violist and violinist Pinchas Zuckerman, cellist Amanda Forsyth, and pianist Bryan Wagorn, took us on a trip which, from start to finish, provided a delightful way to spend an hour on a humid Saturday night (freedom from biting mosquitoes came as an added bonus). Nicole Cabell introduced music of Glière, Kodály, Paradis, Fauré and Beethoven.
Husband and wife Zuckerman and Forsyth held court at Studio E, beginning the first half with Glière’s charming Op.39 Duets. Cast as a set of miniatures, the movements borrow from standard forms like the classical scherzo or a baroque gavotte, yet each in turn become imbued with 19th-century romanticism. The gavotte and scherzo underwent this transformation twice, including their respective musette and trio, and the central canzonetta sang as a stylized love song between the two instruments.
Kodály’s Op.7 Duo, an encyclopedia of performing styles, technical fireworks, and a tour of the Hungarian countryside all rolled together, provided the evening’s meat; the perfection of the craft and execution, though, dissuaded this writer from perpetrating a goulash reference. Opus 7 appears sonically opposite to those often-underwhelming orchestral works which began their lives as piano duets, instead having a fully realized orchestral heft coming out of two string instruments. The technical feats are obviously extreme, but the duo owned its challenges as if they themselves composed the Duo, crafting its artistic soundscapes as if they were improvising a tale on the spot. At every moment both the artistic mastery of the performers and their soulful investment in spinning this composition into our ears enthralled us.
Then pianist Bryan Wagorn joined the duo. Each player offered a solo, Zuckerman going first with Maria Theresia Paradis’s Sicilienne in E-flat Major. That name may not be as well-known as the others on the program. Indeed, little certainty exists about her, including her putative authorship of this very work. The late-18th-century pianist and composer may have been the dedicatee of Mozart’s 18th Piano Concerto; she lived almost as long as Beethoven. Her blindness makes her story all the more interesting for the early 19th-century inventions she turned to in order to learn and compose music. Her Sicilienne is delightful, but even upon first hearing I would be comfortable ascribing its often-cheeky harmonic excursions to its 20th-century discoverer. Nevertheless, this fascinating character begs more attention.
Forsyth then gave a soulful and rapt rendition of the Fauré Elegie, which upon returning to my listening notes for this review evidently inspired me to simply write, in all capitals, “EAT IT UP!” (yes with the exclamation point too). The duo came back to play Beethoven’s Duo in E-flat Major “with two obbligato eyeglasses” WoO 32, with Zuckerman now on viola. Upon first blush, the deceptively difficult piece would seem the perfect concluding amuse bouche among a series of equally charming examples, but upon deeper reflection, it really summed up the titanic musical talent and artistry on display throughout. The video remains online until July 25th; I highly recommend you treat yourself to it.
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.