Two extraordinary NCSU Music Department faculty members, Olga Kleiankina, piano, and Jonathan Kramer, cello, joined forces at North Carolina State University's Stewart Theatre to deliver an evening full of luscious melodies and breathtaking music. The choice of several well-known pieces as well as the beauty of each composition contributed to a delightful and relaxing evening.
They opened the recital with a moving introit to remember the recent earthquake and tsunami tragedy in Japan before they played the first piece on the program, Béla Bartók's famous Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56/BB 68, arranged by Luigi Silva for cello and piano. Kleiankina and Kramer placed the notes rhythmically, contributing to the folk spirit of the pieces. The cellist's tone and touch changed to fit the mood of each dance, which made for an enchanting suite.
After this short set of pieces, the duo executed César Franck's Sonata in A for Cello and Piano (arranged by Jules Delsart). The piece consists of four movements, each depicting a stage in a person's life (innocent childhood, raging post-adolescence, confused and pensive middle age, and wise old age). The cellist's natural rubato in the first movement was compelling. The pianist's use of phrasing and color added to the lush effect. In the furious second movement, the pianist and cellist communicated well, and the pianist's virtuosic passages were played well with a full sound. The third movement contained reflective melodies and pensive harmonies, played with sensitivity. The fourth movement contained joyful imitation of the piano's opening theme by the cello, and the musicians played in a spirit of happy triumph.
After the intermission, both performers took the stage again, this time wearing the color green, lightheartedly to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. They further commemorated the holiday with a short extra piece. Although the intonation of the cello was not the most exact at times, the folk melody was charming.
The next piece, the difficult Adagio and Rondo in F, J. 115, by Carl Maria van Weber (arranged by Gregor Piatigorsky), contained a beautiful legato cello sound in the Adagio, as well as a light, romping spirit in the quick, virtuosic Rondo.
Frédéric Chopin's Sonata in G minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 65, especially reflected the passion and high level of artistry of the duo. They strongly felt the rhythm in the first movement, and both instruments achieved an enchanting, mysterious atmosphere and tone in the second movement. The cello's gorgeous melody in the third movement was heartbreaking and very well played, and in the fourth movement the piano grabbed the audience's attention from the first explosive chord. The cello tone in this last movement was wonderfully full and rich and the duo received a standing ovation afterwards.
For their encore, Kleiankina and Kramer played an arrangement of a Chopin nocturne, originally written for solo piano. The pianist essentially played the original left hand notes of the piece, while the cellist took the melody. The pianist did a fantastic job accompanying the cellist's cadenzas and rubato. The encore was a lovely conclusion to a very pleasant evening full of lush sounds, plenty of color and character within the pieces, and exciting virtuosity. The friendly and beautiful atmosphere of the concert was one the audience would not soon forget.