Sunday, February 8, Nelson Auditorium, Duke University : Eric Pritchard, first violinist of the Ciompi Quartet, ran a musical marathon Sunday afternoon, performing all three of Johannes Brahms's violin sonatas to a sizable crowd of enthusiastic listeners, including many of his students.
It was a lovely performance, made especially interesting by Pritchard's choice of two different pianists as partners. For the first two sonatas, Op. 78 in G and Op. 100 in A Major, the pianist was Frank Iogha, a well-known artist who has performed extensively around the country and abroad. He is especially associated with cellist the late Leonard Rose. For 27 years Iogha was on the piano faculty of the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Recently retired from university teaching, he now lives in Flat Rock, NC but has definitely not retired from performing.
Iogha's pianism is clean and controlled, and his performance was more of an accompaniment, than a partnership; with the piano lid half closed, his tone sounded subdued, especially against Pritchard's dark, powerful violin, and he never took the limelight. But Brahms was a pianist, and the piano part is as a rule on a par with the other instrument, with the result that some of the give and take of the music was missing, especially in the G Major Sonata, where Pritchard's Romantic playing accentuated the rapid mood and tempo shifts. In the more gentle A Major Sonata the contrast between the two performers was less of a issue. The strength of the piano in these sonatas, however, is a question of taste. It should go without saying that a more subtle style of accompaniment is infinitely preferable to one in which the pianist drowns out the violin.
The contrast was pronounced, however, between the first two sonatas and the d minor Sonata in which Duke's Randall Love - a Romantic at heart - partnered with Pritchard. Love's fingering was not as clean, but he contributed to the excitement of the performance. In the restless, syncopated first movement, the violin and piano maintained in intense dialogue and a flow of intertwining rhythms. In the passionate finale, the two pulled out all the stops.
As an encore, Pritchard and Love performed the only other violin and piano music Brahms wrote: the Scherzo of the F.A.E. - "Frei aber Einsam" (Free but lonely) - Sonata. The Sonata was a joint venture in 1853 between Robert Schumann, who composed the Intermezzo and Finale, his composition pupil Albert Dietrich, who wrote the first movement, and Brahms. The work was to be presented to their friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim on his arrival for a visit in Dresden. The acronym F.A.E. was Joachim's personal motto, frequently appearing after his signature, and reflecting his feeling of loneliness until his marriage in 1863. The movement is influenced by the Gypsy music Brahms heard from his friend and associate, the Hungarian violinist Eduard Reményi, and it received a fiery and rousing performance.
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Note: February 8 was one of those typical days in the Triangle when several noteworthy musical events overlap.... For coverage of a 3:00 p.m. recital of contemporary art songs by composers from or based in North Carolina, including the world premiere of Scott Tilley's Song Offerings, given by soprano Susan Dunn and pianist David Heid at the NC Museum of Art, see our colleague Roy C. Dicks' 2/10 review in the News & Observer , available online at http://www.triangle.com/music/concertreview/story/984386p-6974596c.html [inactive 3/06].