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The near-capacity crowd at Carswell Concert Hall on the Meredith College campus obviously contained a huge mix of Michael Danchi fans. Their enthusiasm was palpable for that violinist and his proficient colleagues, violinist Lyda Cruden and pianist Nancy Whelan. These three musicians renewed the series, "Strings Attached," from a year ago.
Danchi began the evening with the fourth movement, Allegro assai, of Bach’s unaccompanied Violin Sonata No. 3 in C, S.1005. This Eastman graduate could scarcely have chosen a piece that better showcases one’s virtuosity. The requisite energetic bowing and gymnastic fingering were a wonder to behold (as well as to hear). Mercifully absent here was any hint of excessive vibrato, a malady that afflicts most string playing in these post-modern days.
Few strains are more distinctively Bach than those that open his Concerto for Two Violins, S.1043. Here all three artists collaborated in the three movements. The interplay between the violins in their roles as equals was a pleasure to hear. Nancy Whelan, evidently one of the busiest pianists in the area, handled the demanding reduction for piano with apparent ease. The Largo (middle) movement was especially gratifying as the piano reduction there lent the movement an overall impression of a gorgeous chamber trio. (The printed program was of a minimalist bent, lacking such material as artist background and information on the selected pieces.)
By his selection of the Violin Sonata, Op. 27, No. 4, by the Belgian composer Eugène Ysaÿe, Danchi reported that he was updating Bach. A look at their dates suggests an updating by some two hundred years. The three unaccompanied movements were as fascinating as the predecessor’s work, the frenzied close being especially exciting. (While he serves as an able emcee, this artist could do with a bit of work on his oral delivery. Some of his potentially helpful discourse tended to get lost beyond the first row or so.) For the closing selection, he was again joined by Whelan for the first movement (Vivace ma non troppo) of Brahms’ song-like Sonata No. 1 in G, Op. 78. It is billed as a piece for violin, but the two players teamed as peers for a tuneful chamber duo. To reward the audience, the players offered a choice version of Brahms’ Lullaby. Here, Cruden again demonstrated her considerable skills with a charming obbligato composed by the pianist.
This was an audience of the highest level of enthusiasm and appreciation (an audience, incidentally, notably lacking in members who could credibly pass for Meredith students). These three players earned the praise generously showered upon them.