Concert smooth, soothing

Great Hall's season opens on strong note

September 12, 2005|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The local music season is under way, and not a minute too soon.

What with all the dreadful news in the Gulf Coast region, and (as usual) plenty of unsettling business elsewhere, it's good to know that you can find various entry points into the rarer air of musical expression, where, however briefly, things can seem a whole lot better.

Music in the Great Hall provided such an entry with the opening program of its 32nd season over the weekend, a program strong on happy endings.

Framing the concert were two trios in C major for violin, cello and piano - you can't get more centered and reassuring than C major - by Haydn and Brahms. In both cases, there are ventures into dimly lit territory, where thoughts turn melancholy or bittersweet, but sunshine and affirmation are never far away.

Haydn's Trio (H. XV, No. 21) balances two carefree movements with a lyrical reflection in between that elevates the entire work from diversion to art.

Friday night's performance at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church (repeated yesterday) could have used a few subtler shadings, a slightly wider palette (especially at the keyboard) and more rhythmic lift in places. But there was, nonetheless, much to enjoy in the committed playing of violinist Igor Yuzefovich, newly appointed assistant concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Dariusz Skoraczewski, the BSO's assistant principal cellist; and pianist Virginia Reinecke.

The three reached an impressive height in the Op. 87 by Brahms. Reinecke, who founded Music in the Great Hall and now holds the emeritus artistic director title, retains not just considerable technical facility (hard to believe she's in her mid-80s), but a longtime passion for this particular composer.

The pianist delivered compelling tonal weight where it counted most, as in the emphatic close of the first movement or the darkest shadows of the second, and poured on the warmth for the tender-hearted repose at the center of the scherzo movement.

Yuzefovich and Skoraczewski matched each other for richness of sound, vitality of phrasing. They dug into the music's lower epidermis, getting at the emotional vibrancy of Brahms.

On their own, the two men also offered a taut, poetic account of Zoltan Kodaly's Duo, one of a handful of great works for violin and cello. There is a lot of meat on the score, flavored by traces of earthy Hungarian folk music and often sounding as packed with activity as a full string quartet.

The wistful endings of the first two movements create an arresting aural poetry that Yuzefovich and Skoraczewski articulated most eloquently.

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