Suppose you were an accomplished violinist and you wanted four composers who would place French music in its best possible light. You might well choose as Michael Danchi did on a frigid evening in Clara Carswell Concert Hall on the campus of Meredith College. He could scarcely have come up with a greater set of French worthies for the third edition of his “Strings Attached” series. Not many strings were attached this time, more specifically, only the four on Danchi’s own violin. Collaborating with him for the evening were three pianists of the first rank.
Who better than Ravel could have begun the proceedings? Able guest Rosa Eugenia Scott joined Danchi for “Tzigane, Concert Rhapsody for Violin & Piano” (1924). Parts of this “gypsy” piece gave a possible idea of what a French hoedown might sound like. Once the piano got into the act, both instruments assumed the same spirit, sometimes to a frenzy. Here the piano comes quite late to the party, lying fallow for almost half of the piece while the violin performs a long unaccompanied solo. To remain in the French frame of mind, one might even say that the piano had to wait for beaucoup measures.
A true giant of the repertory came on next with the opening movement, Allegro vivo, from Debussy’s Sonata No. 1 for Violin & Piano, L.140 (1917). The piece started as a pleasingly calm contrast to the Ravel before the “vivo” took over. Here Marion Scott drew the piano duty. He appeared in this series in 2009 to high and merited acclaim. (Yes, he is the husband of the aforementioned Scott. Not only do they seem well matched skill-wise, but each one can now enjoy having an expert page-turner at the ready.)
Possibly the best known work by Chausson is his “Poème,” Op. 25, from 1896, a programmatic score with a graceful and subtle theme that recurs throughout from both instruments.* As if to compensate for her idle time in the first number, Rosa Eugenia Scott came back for this one with her same apparently easy touch. Here and in all the offerings, the Eastman-trained Danchi used his theatrical flair and technical competence to the finest effect.
The obvious fourth Gallic composer had to be Fauré. Danchi and pianist Juhee Kim chose the first movement (Allegro molto) from his Sonata No. 1 for Violin & Piano in A, Op. 13 (1876). No information was furnished for this polished pianist. But to judge from her work here, she should soon be well known indeed. Refusing to leave France for even a moment, these two artists favored the capacity audience with an encore, the ever-favored “Meditation” theme from Massenet’s opera, Thais.
It was an innovative program, superbly executed by four young musicians who performed at a level generally unsurpassed.