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Ruggero Piano has developed a reputation for presenting some superior artists in intimate and congenial surroundings, generally on the fourth Friday of the month. Nonetheless, there was a healthy crowd of folks, including many youngsters, in Bösendorfer Hall, the company's small auditorium, on Thursday, November 8, for a recital by two outstandingly gifted and talented young people. Yes, the phrase is hackneyed, but here it holds real meaning. There are times when, in the presence of a truly great artist, one senses something exceptional in the air. There was a lot about the Low brother's program that, variously, whispered or said or shouted "exceptional." It was, indeed, one of the more astounding evenings of this writer's concert-going career.
Things got underway with an accomplished performance by Yeeren Low of Saint-Saëns' violin showpiece, the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, Op. 28. Never mind that it was given with piano accompaniment by the fiddler's older brother, Yeeray, whose keyboard technique is every bit as impressive as Yeeren's violin chops.
We'll jump ahead to the start of part two of this full and generous program, to note a dazzling rendition of Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen," Op. 20, that would have done any big-name duo proud. It was, like the first work heard, astounding, pure and simple. Ah, to be at once so talented and as young as these artists!
Did we say that Yeeren can play the piano as well as Yeeray, and that Yeeray can play the violin (and more) as well as Yeeren? Ah, it must have slipped my mind.
Following the Saint-Saëns, the Lows performed "Shrovetide Fair" from Stravinsky's Petroushka. Did we say it was given in an arrangement for two pianos by Yeeren? It brought to mind Bachauer's famous readings but was more hair-raising because of the added sonority of the second instrument. Yeeren took the lead here, playing the first piano part, but Yeeray was the soloist for Liszt's "Totentanz," a set of complex variations on the Dies Irae theme. Like most of the rest of the program, these two pieces — the Stravinsky and the Liszt — were, well, astounding.
And there was more of the same in the second half of the second half, which featured Prokofiev's First Piano Concerto (with Yeeray as soloist) and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (with Yeeren...). Shoot — these were astounding, too. And even with all that music, mostly from the 20th century, the artists were not prepared to stop: the encores were the light ditty known as the Variations on a Theme by Paganini by Lutoslawski (the tune is the same one used by Rachmaninov) and then the first movement of Milhaud's "Scaramouche."
So what's wrong with this picture? A full-bore program, delivered from memory with evident joy and delight (although, truth to tell, not too many smiles of pleasure from the players...) — by a violinist/pianist who is 10 years old and his pianist brother, who is 13. There was no evidence at any point of any significant technical or artistic weakness. Kind of alters your perspective on the future of classical music, doesn't it?
They're already studying composition at Juilliard on the weekends, and they'll be there full-time starting in early 2008, so this was their area recital farewell. Yeeren solos in the Saint-Saëns and Sarasate with the Raleigh Civic Symphony on Sunday afternoon; see our calendar for details. They'll repeat this recital program on November 18 at 5:00 p.m. at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 231 North Church Street, Rocky Mount; for more information, call 252/442-1134. It would be worth the drive for either or both concerts.
For more information about the artists, see http://www.thelowbrothers.com/index.html. Oh, there's a 6-year-old third brother in the wings. Wow! No wonder string virtuoso Yoram Youngerman and piano virtuoso John Ruggero, the current teachers of Yeeren and Yeeray, beamed with pride all night!