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I am always amazed so few Triangle music lovers venture west to sample music on the campus of Elon University. One of its treasures is an acoustical and visual jewel of a venue – Whitley Auditorium. It houses two instrumental treasures, a fine Casavant Frères organ and a marvelously restored 1923 Steinway D concert grand piano which has a remarkable action that uses the patented "Precision TouchT" system. Pianist Dmitri Shteinberg is currently an artist/teacher of piano at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and is also on a faculty at the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Burlington, Vermont. He was the featured recitalist on this concert in Elon's Lyceum Series.
Papillons, Op. 2 by Robert Schumann (1810-56) has nothing to do with "butterflies." Its twelve brief pieces were inspired by the last scene of Larventanz from the novel Flegeljahre by Jean Paul. Shteinberg's expressive range was remarkable over the course of the brief dance movements that make up the set. What a carefully gauged dynamic range from the lilting No. 2, the dark weighty No. 4, or the dramatic No. 9! The poignant, swirling No. 6 or the gentle, song-like No. 8 gave scope for his poetic expressiveness. The rhythms of the two polonaises, No. 5 and No. 11 received vital performances.
Piano Sonata No. 26 in E-flat, Op. 81, "Les Adieux" by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is one of the composer's rare admitted essays in program music. The composer called it "ein Bild" (a story). It depicts the departure, absence, and return of his student and patron, the Archduke Rudolph, who fled a Napoleonic attack on Vienna in May 1809. The composer's mercurial and shifting emotional states were superbly expressed by Shteinberg. His palette of tonal color was remarkable as was the clarity of his articulation whether weaving seamless melody or fast, racing passages.
Sonata in B-flat, K. 281 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) is the third of a set of six sonatas composed in 1774 in order to have them ready for his use in Munich. It shows the continued influence of Haydn but shows signs of Mozart's emancipation from the older composer's model toward a more personal expression. Shteinberg masterfully brought out the galant style beautifully from the technical brilliance of the sonata form of the allegro. Mozart's foreshadowing of a more personal expression was ideally brought out in the Andante amoroso without ever a hint of the maudlin. The Rondo: Allegro was vividly expressed, combing Mozart's wit with crystal clear passage work. It was a model of interpretation of Mozart.
Schumann's Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 consists of twelve pieces written largely in the form of variations on a relatively simple theme borrowed from the adoptive father of Ernestine von Fricken. The set abounds in polyphony. Apparently much of Schumann's counterpoint came instinctively. In a letter to Clara he confessed "It's most extraordinary how I write nearly everything in canon and then only detect the imitation later, and often find inversions, rhythms in contrary motion and so on."
Shteinberg's performance was breathtaking, both interpretatively and technically. A clear overall concept was readily apparent as all the multiple variations culminated in the last two variations. Each variation swept forward into the next inexorably. Every permutation was revealed with crystalline clarity and gorgeous tone.
Shteinberg's fine program will be repeated Wednesday October 10, 2018, 7:30 pm at Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill.