Sometimes, wonderful things come in small packages, and at little or no cost. That's certainly true of the occasional recitals presented at Meredith College, in Carswell Recital Hall, by violinist Carol Chung and pianist Frank Pittman, both of whom teach there. As we’ve noted fairly often in the past, these players have top-flight chops, making them the technical and artistic equals of folks with far greater name recognition, folks who frequent the world's most prominent venues. That they always play for free at Meredith – and that there are often (when the moon is in the correct phase, and when the budget over there permits...) receptions – and that there's no charge for parking, of which there is a gracious plenty, close at hand – drives these programs into the category of “best music bargains in town.”
On Monday evening, these splendid musicians gave another winning program, winningly composed of wonderful music. Chung began with a radiant, elegant performance of Bach's Violin Sonata in G minor, S.1001. The reading might not have been to everyone's taste – the first movement seemed somewhat rough-hewn – but it was absolutely the best rendition this listener had heard that day, it got better as it went, and it admirably set the stage for the delights that were to come.
Those delights included Debussy's Violin Sonata, in which Pittman made contributions that were every bit as impressive as Chung's offerings. As it happened, a quirk of scheduling fate made this the second performance of a Debussy sonata at the school in four days – Nancy Green and pianist Jeremy Thompson had played the Cello Sonata the previous Thursday (for a review of which, click here) – so Francophiles were in their element. This was an amazing performance, one that seemed imbued with Gallic resignation.
After the intermission, violist David Marschall, of the NC Symphony, joined Chung for Mozart's Duo in G, K.423. Here, the playing of both was on an exceptionally high level, resulting in a performance that packed an emotional wallop for the audience members.
A bon-bon in the form of Kreisler's “Caprice Viennois” followed, dashed off with skill and wit and charm.
The grand finale was another great French work, Ravel's celebrated “Tzigane,” here given an incisive and searing rendition that dazzled where it needed to and touched the heart in the more reflective places – of which there are plenty.
Playing like this, by artists who dwell and work in our midst, and who teach our children and our children's children, makes living in the Triangle a treat. Long may they thrive!
The night before, in Jones Auditorium, the Meredith Sinfonietta gave its spring concert. What Sinfonietta? Well, since the arrival of faculty cellist and conductor James Waddelow a year or so ago, this little ensemble of (mostly) students has been working on some fairly challenging repertory. The composers included Peter Maxwell Davies (of “An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise” fame), Morton Gould, Sousa (two obscure marches – “The Crusader,” issued in 1912, and “Beau Ideal,” 1893 – for chamber orchestra), Brahms (two little marches, arranged by Julius Seredy), and Offenbach (many familiar bits and pieces, done up as Ballet Parisian).
(None of this music was vaguely related to the program that had been announced well in advance and that was listed in CVNC's calendar.)
Alas, the playing wasn't generally up to the music, simplified though some of it had been. The Sinfonietta is a good idea – all musicians need ensemble experience – but Waddelow can’t do it all himself, and he needs a good deal more help from the other instrumental music teachers to make this undertaking a success. For now, the results seemed to please family and friends, but the show wasn’t ready for prime time.
The short program had opened with an also short excerpt from Ernesto Koehler's Grand Quartet in D, Op. 92, for four flutes, featuring the Meredith Flute Quartet, Pamela Nelson, director.