You needed to be rather expansive in your definition of “strings” to take the program title at Meredith College literally. The bulletin and the advance publicity promised that the Department of Music was presenting “Strings Attached 2009.” The ensuing offerings proved more inclusive. But the near-capacity crowd of fans in Clara Carswell Concert Hall were in no mood to quibble. The proceedings seemed entirely to their liking.
Highly celebrated guitarist Dave Veslocki opened with a short piece, “Cordoba,” by Albeniz, agreeably tuneful with andante beginning, ultimately ending in presto character. Next came the larger work, Ginastera’s “Guitar Sonata,” a challenging piece characterized by vigorous strumming and frequent percussive forays on the body of the instrument. This guitarist distinguished himself by the bare minimum of unmusical sounds from the left hand as it darted up and down the strings. Such noise too often afflicts the artistry of otherwise fine guitarists.
Pianist Marion Scott brought on the early romanticism of Mendelssohn’s cycle, Songs without Words. The Eastman and Juilliard graduate captured the lyricism and power of the six “songs” from Book 1. His skilled touch ranged from the gentle to the stormy as the score demanded, allowing each audience member to supply the missing words if, as and when desired.
Nick Hagelin is a former ballet dancer, as well as winner of the 2007 North Carolina Songwriters Competition. Accompanying himself on the guitar, he presented four of his original (love) songs. “Heaven Sent” led into “Keep Drivin’” (i.e., when you’re first smitten with the love of your life). After “Wedding Song” came “People Go Wild,” where the enthusiastic audience whooped their assent when so prompted. Hagelin’s skill as a guitarist was evident from time to time in these songs.
Violinist Mike Danchi, a member of the Meredith faculty, is an Eastman graduate who has performed with the North Carolina Symphony and other organizations. In addition to his musicianship, he served as helpful and witty emcee of the proceedings. (Here he could be more careful with his enunciation. Too many of his potentially useful comments tended to be lost as sotto voce asides.) No defect, though, was evident as he dispatched with apparent ease the “Ballade” from Violin Sonata No. 3 by Ysaÿe. Probably no violin work calls for more dexterity than he furnished in this piece.
With the published program at an end, Danchi announced the availability of a postscript bonus for anyone able to stick around. Scott returned to perform “Fantasia,” a Russian jazz piece that sounded as if more than two hands were being employed. This work and the aforementioned Violin Sonata constituted the “gee-whiz” pieces of the evening. The Tangeman brothers, Benjamin and Cort, provided the bluegrass flavoring. Calling themselves the Mountain Aires, they demonstrated fine virtuosity, Benjamin on the guitar and Cort on the dulcimer.
You could scarcely ask for a more eclectic evening of music making. And those six musicians will never perform before a more supportive audience.