Rosand is a remarkable lesson in longevity, style

Violinist continues to display artistry, poise and polish


October 12, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Longevity is something wonderful to behold - and to hear. Consider the case of violinist Aaron Rosand, who continues to defy the usual toll of time and give unusually satisfying concerts at the age of 76.

Subtract a point for an occasional pitch slippage or smudge of articulation during his recital Sunday afternoon for the Catonsville Presbyterian Concert Series, and you still have a level of poise and polish that many a fiddler a third of Rosand's age could never match.

Where he really triumphs is with that elusive quality called artistry, the ability to extract deep meaning out of the black and white on a page.

There's something unmistakably right and disarmingly natural about his playing. You could sense that right at the start of this concert, with the Adagio (K. 261) and Rondo (K. 373) by Mozart. Even the way he delivered the brief cadenzas, which today's stylistic purists might fault for their romantic tendencies, emerged persuasively.

Rosand's account of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata bristled with energy in the opening and closing movements, exuded an elegant lyricism in the central one (the last, slow-fading note was masterfully controlled). Accompanist Robert Koenig proved every bit the equal partner here, as he did all afternoon, despite a small, dry piano.

A luminous, singing performance of Chausson's Poeme had compelling tension underneath. A transcription by Kreisler of the second movement from Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 proved deeply satisfying; taken at a brisker clip than many pianists favor, the interpretation still offered a model of poetic phrasing. And Tchaikovsky's muted, wistful Valse sentimentale unfolded exquisitely.

Rosand had the first part of Sarasate's Gypsy Airs sighing and crying without slipping into schmaltz, the second flying by in bravura fashion. Encores by Mendelssohn and Brahms capped this remarkable lesson in longevity, style and heart.

Pepe Romero

The Baltimore Classical Guitar Society boasts an enviable showcase of international stars for its 2004-05 season - John Williams, Eliot Fisk, David Leisner and, to open the series Friday night at the Peabody Conservatory, Pepe Romero.

I caught the first half of Romero's all-Spanish program and found the unassuming virtuosity of his playing consistently impressive. Although articulation blurred sometimes at fast speeds, the richness of his phrasing and the sensitive way he handled dynamic contrasts paid off handsomely.

Fernando Sor's Variations on a Theme by Mozart emerged with great charm. Romero delivered the atmospheric elements of Gaspar Sanz's Suite espanola and, particularly, Francisco Tarrega's Gran jota in colorful, telling detail.

A very classy artist.

Atlantic String Quartet

From the Romero recital, I made it to Towson Unitarian Universalist Church in time to hear the end of Music in the Great Hall's season-opener Friday night.

In a taut performance of Beethoven's Op. 74, the Atlantic String Quartet, made up of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra players, demonstrated the kind of inter-communication skills that characterize full-time chamber ensembles.

The musicians maintained a highly effective rhythmic drive in the first movement and again in the third, where cellist Bo Li's crisp, rapid-fire bursts intensified the drama. Plenty of subtle shading was applied to bring out the grave elements of the Adagio, the storm-clearing grace of the finale.

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