Fleisher, others shine in concert for stellar cause

CRITIC'S CORNER

Music Review

September 28, 2005|By TIM SMITH | TIM SMITH,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

The impulse to help those devastated by Hurricane Katrina has generated fundraising concerts throughout the country, including one in Baltimore equally generous in intent and content.

Organized by pianist Lura Johnson and her husband, violinist Matthew Horwitz, the event Monday night at Central Presbyterian Church brought together a stellar lineup of locally based talent, headlined by the almost legendary keyboard artist Leon Fleisher.

In all, 16 musicians, including Baltimore Symphony Orchestra players and faculty members from area schools, volunteered their services to benefit relief funds of the Red Cross and the American Symphony Orchestra League. The near-marathon didn't have a dull moment in it, a testament to the caliber of those involved.

Before appearing with his wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson, to close the program with a duet, Fleisher offered an unannounced solo - Chopin's Nocturne in D-flat major, Op. 27, No. 2. The performance was sculpted with a master's sense of coloring and rhythmic suppleness, a poet's sense of nuance.

Fleisher lost an awful lot of years to a debilitating right-hand ailment, but not an ounce of his innate musicality. Hearing him play with both hands (Botox injections have enabled him to resume ambidexterity in moderation) is to hear a level of artistry that many a pianist today can't even imagine, let alone match.

The Fleisher/Jacobson pairing was memorable, too; the duo tapped the subtle side of Ravel's La Valse with remarkable finesse.

Daniel Heifetz, a major violinist and educator, tore into the noble G minor Chaconne attributed to Tomasso Vitali with a grandly scaled tone and uncommon intensity and variety of phrasing, qualities of Old World musicianship. He was ably backed by pianist Robert Johnson.

Another highlight: the superbly controlled performance of Arvo Part's time-suspending Spiegel im Spiegel by violist Peter Minkler, with Johnson at the piano. The music, which sounds like something Bach might write after attending a Philip Glass concert, cast a hypnotic spell.

Guitarist Ronald Pearl expertly played Oliver Hunt's mostly interesting tone poem Garuda. Violinist Igor Yuzefovich and cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn joined Horwitz and Minkler for elegant accounts of pieces by Dvorak and Puccini.

Violist Maria Lambros and pianist Sheng-Yuan Kuan delivered some vibrant Telemann. Oboist Katherine Needleman, bassoonist Julie Gregorian and pianist Amy Klosterman sounded colorful, if straight-laced, in music by Andre Previn. Student violinist Lee Jeon played works by Edouard Lalo and William Kroll with advanced levels of poise, polish and style.

tim.smith@baltsun.com

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