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The title was "William Preucil and Friends." The concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, who is also the former concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the former first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet,* invited four other Brevard Music Center faculty members to join him in a chamber music recital at the Porter Center of Brevard College. Thomas Joiner and J. Patrick Rafferty are on the violin faculty. Douglas Weeks is on the piano faculty. Pianist Bruce Murray is artistic administrator and dean. These four collaborators have collectively spent more than 90 summers teaching at the Brevard Music Center.
Preucil and Rafferty opened with Sergey Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins in C Major, Op. 56, composed in 1932, just as Prokofiev was returning to Russia. The sonata is in four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast. The second movement, Allegro, had a sense of urgency, a boldness that presented the enfant terrible side of Prokofiev's personality. The third movement, Commodo (quasi allegretto), showed the lyrical romanticism that is the contrasting other component of Prokofiev's signature style. A beautiful theme floated out into the hall, reminding me of both "Friar Lawrence" and "Romeo and Juliet Before Parting" from the important Romeo and Juliet ballet music that the composer would write three years later. The irrepressible composer concludes with an Allegro con Brio that is whimsical, interrupting a mostly sweetly romantic movement with an occasional semitone discord between the two violins as if to thumb his nose at those who had stopped listening carefully. This is an elegant and sophisticated work that deserves to be programmed more often.
Preucil, Joiner, and Weeks then tackled Moritz Moszkowski's Suite for Two Violins and Piano in G Minor, Op. 71. Again in four movements, this composition was much more predictable than the Prokofiev and made for very comfortable listening. The second movement, Allegro Moderato, was the high point, a triple meter movement containing a soulful theme that was successfully treated with a lot of rubato.
Preucil was then joined by Murray in Gabriel Fauré's Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 in A Major, Op. 13. Composed when Fauré was about thirty years old, the thematic material could be that of a modest and unadventurous piece of generic French music. But close attendance to the work causes one to appreciate the creative harmonic underpinning. In the second movement, Andante, the piano chords provide a coloration that grounds the work while the violin floats along in the ether. In the third movement, Allegro Vivo, a repeated ten-note motif would become tiresome were it not subjected to slight alterations, while complex harmonies complement it. Fauré was a subtle composer; it is not surprising that it took more than half a century after his death for him to be fully appreciated.
Reacting to the acclaim of a near-capacity audience, Preucil delivered two encores: Giuseppe Tartini's beautiful Adagio and Fritz Kreisler's Tempo di Menuetto, a work saved from being slightly pretentious by its seriocomic overtones.
If the Brevard Music Center continues to mount concerts of such high quality, I will get a reputation for writing "softball" reviews. But what is there not to admire when five talented faculty members of the Southeast's premier summer teaching music festival collaborate to provide a short evening of chamber music of this quality? At one point in the Moszkowski's second movement, Preucil surprised Weeks by stretching the tempo so much that the piano appeared ahead of the intended moment. But that is a minor quibble, and the two promptly came back into sync. So my only complaint is that the concert was so short.
Note: The Brevard Music Festival continues through August 10. For details, click here.