Recital Review



Kaleidoscopic Sights and Sounds in the Weymouth Center

April 13, 2003 - Southern Pines, NC:


Myth! It is sheer myth that the reason concerts at the Weymouth Center are always packed is the cornucopia of imaginative finger food, wine and punch that the good Lady's Committee prepares for the post-concert reception. Of course one meaning of the term allows a basis in fact. There are also the immaculate gardens that surround the museum house of N.C. Historical novelist James Boyd. The concerts take place in the large Georgian room that the Friends of Weymouth dubbed "the Great Room," but theauthor's wife (whose oil portrait watches from the back wall) called it her parlor or living room. These concerts are truly "chamber music" in an intimate setting.

For the last program of the Weymouth Concerts on April 13, featured. an eclectic selection of works for violin and piano. The artists from the School of Music of East Carolina University, violinist Ara Gregorian and pianist Paul Tardif, made the strongest possible case for programming them together.

Tardif is well remembered for both classical and jazz appearances in the Triangle for several decades. Having joined the ECU faculty in 1998, Gregorian has founded and is the Artistic Director of the Four Season Chamber Music Festival of Eastern North Carolina which has brought a tempting array of rising talent and imaginative programming to the Greenville campus. He possesses an infallible bow arm and rapid, précis fingering guided by solid musicianship. I usually decry low piano lids, preferring the full color and overtone palette of a fully open piano with dynamics reined in at the keyboard. Weymouth's confined space, however, justified setting the lid merely a hand's span high. Tardif is the only pianist that I have ever heard who is still able to present the full kaleidoscope of sound while so muzzled. No doubt the physical closeness of players and audience helped.

Gregorian described the opening Sonata in A Minor, Opus 12, No. 2 by Beethoven as the composer's "quirkiest." The early classical period work opened with an insouciant theme and a witty piano part. The darker theme of the second movement started in the piano and was followed by lovely melody taken by each in turn. I have always been fascinated by the third movement designation "Allegro piacevole," which Gregorian loosely translated as "fast, but at your own speed." It was by turns playful and dance-like with repeated phrases acquired by each player in turn.

I have heard Robert Schumann's Fantasiestücke , Opus 73 for clarinet most often in concert and on recordings played by cellists. Gregorian explained that versions also exist for viola (confirmed by our Southern Pines colleague) and so he had no qualms about playing it on the violin. The first movement was moody and schizophrenic, by turns tender and dark. The second movement was lighter and joyful while the last movement was very fast and intense with extraordinary rapid and précis violin fireworks.

The highlight of the concert came after intermission, Debussy's Sonata in G Minor for Violin and Piano (1917), the last completed of three from a planned "Six Sonatas for Various Instruments." All that I wrote on my notebook was "WOW!" That really covered it. Tardif brought out an unbelievable rainbow of musical color and was matched by sublime and breathtaking violin pyrotechnics molded by deep musicianship. A retired musician said that while she would never have played the piece so freely she was completely won over by Gregorian's musicianship. The Vocalise, Opus 34, No. 14 by Rachmaninoff and the "faux baroque" of Fritz Kreisler's Praeludium and Allegro ended the formal program. After enthusiastic applause, Kreisler's arrangement of a "Melody by Gluck" made a fine encore.

Since this series is so popular, always call ahead at 910/692-6261 to make sure seating will be available. There's no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, especially in the Spring when the azaleas are blooming. The completion of the Wilson bypass will mean easier access from the Triangle next season.