Violist Kim Kashkashian draws out the poetry in music

MUSIC REVIEW

April 14, 1993|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

The kind of musician that the violist Kim Kashkashian is was apparent from the way she performed de Falla's "Suite $l Populaire" last night in Friedberg Hall.

Most string players would have been content to toss off Paul Kochanski's transcriptions of the Spanish composer's "Popular Songs" with aplomb and brilliance. There was plenty of that from this violist, but she was also able to find poetry in each of these miniatures, often revealing an elegiac quality. Even in the rollicking "Jota" there was a note of sadness.

Kashkashian, a Peabody alumna, is one of the great masters of her difficult instrument. She can taper a phrase with a kind of quiet brilliance that is more effective and more affecting than the noisier variety; she has an ability to color a phrase in the most evocative manner; and she has a technique masterly enough to make dynamic distinctions, particularly at the lower end of the spectrum, that are beyond most players.

She has always been a persuasive advocate for 20th-century music -- a very good thing because her instrument's repertory really didn't come into being until this century.

She played Britten's "Lachrymae," written in 1950 for William Primrose, beautifully. This piece, subtitled "Reflections on a song of Dowland," is not easy to play. But Kashkashian stitched its fragments together in a closely knit manner, building to several eloquent climaxes and letting the piece culminate in the most natural manner in the final statement of the lovely song.

Penderecki's 1984 Cadenza for Solo Viola, an achingly beautiful piece, was played in a hypnotically improvisatory way that got slower and slower until its almost unimaginably soft ending.

In everything she played except the solo Penderecki work, the violist benefited from the partnership of pianist Charles Ambrovic. Together the duo made much of the delicate nuances in Milhaud's "Quatre Visages for Viola and Piano," giving them just the right bluesy atmosphere and not trying to make too much of their sophisticated, breezy charms. Brahms' Sonata No. 2 in E Flat was given a sweeping, powerful performance that still preserved the music's warmth and relaxation. Here, violist and pianist performed with what seemed an ideal combination of delicacy of feeling and sensitivity of phrasing.

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