On Friday evening, Greensboro welcomed the highly-esteemed violinist John McLaughlin Williams and equally esteemed pianist Glen Inanga to Christ United Methodist Church on Holden Road. This performance was the first of the Music for a Great Space's 2013-2014 season and the first of Arts Greensboro's 17 Days. Williams was a charming performer; he gave his performance notes before each piece was played; this in turn gave the performance an air of greater intimacy than might otherwise have been the case.
The title of this performance, "Between the Wars," was meant to highlight the great but rather unknown composers of the era between World Wars I and II. The concert began with a lively performance of "Horo" from Two Bulgarian Paraphrases for Violin and Piano, Op. 18, by Pancho Vladigerov (1899-1978). This lively piece had elements of Bulgarian folk tunes and dances and was played very well. Unfortunately, the piano overpowered the violin line on occasion; nonetheless it was a great choice for a concert opener. The Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in C Major, Op. 16m by Karl Weigl (1881-1949), closed out the first half. The three movements of this sonata were all beautifully played, but the most captivating movement (of perhaps the entire concert) was the second, entitled "Des Singvögelchens Gesang vor Nacht," which roughly translates to "The Songbirds Sing before the Night." It was a beautifully slow, peaceful movement that captured the attention of the audience from the first note.
W.G. Still's (1895-1978) Suite for Violin and Piano opened the second half. Williams played this suite entirely from memory, which brought the emotion to a level not matched in the other pieces, which he played with music. However, it sounded as if the piano and violin were not quite in sync for much of the suite. The piano began to sound a little muddy in the third movement and continued to be an issue for most of the rest of the concert. The final piece played was Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Minor, Op. 112, by York Bowen (1884-1961), who was commonly referred to as the "English Rachmaninoff." Williams played it well, although the piano continued to sound muddy. The final movement, Allegro con fuoco, full of excitement and energy, was a perfect way to end the program.
We were surprised with an impromptu solo encore performance by Glen Inanga: Karl Weigl's first Fantasy. I personally have never attended a concert where the accompanist performed a solo piece after the program was completed; this caught me off guard. However, it was a lovely piece and Inanga displayed his piano prowess. After Inanga finished the Fantasy, Williams played a final solo piece, the Recitative and Scherzo by Fritz Kreisler. It displayed his incredible technical skills and was a fantastic end to an equally fantastic performance.