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The Greensboro Symphony Orchestra's latest "Sitkovetsky and Friends" chamber concert moved to a new venue: the recently constructed theatre at Well-Spring Retirement Community. The musicians included Lukas Geniušas, the guest pianist in town for his performance of Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto with the GSO, music director and violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky, and GSO principal cellist and UNCG faculty member Alexander Ezerman.
Sitkovetsky welcomed the audience to the new locale and explained a change in the printed program: Stravinsky's Divertimento for violin and piano would be replaced by the Violin Sonata No. 8 in G, Op. 30, No. 3, by Ludwig van Beethoven (German, 1770-1827). Why? Fritz Kreisler and Sergei Rachmaninov, a legendary performing duo, recorded only a couple of sonatas together. Last fall Sitkovetsky and Geniušas made a recording as an homage to the duo: one of the pieces recorded by both was this Beethoven sonata.
Beethoven's Op. 30 (a set of three sonatas) was composed in 1802, just as the composer was about to come to terms with his progressive deafness and begin composing in a "new," heroic fashion, as evidenced by his Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica"). These sonatas do not yet show that change, however. Indeed, the title page of the published works has these words: "Three sonatas for the pianoforte with the accompaniment of a violin," implying the sonatas are primarily piano works with a subordinate function for the violin. Not so obvious in the performance!
The first movement Allegro assai begins with a unison flourish from both piano and violin. Terrific ensemble between Sitkovetsky and Geniušas was immediately evident here and throughout the 20-minute work. The two infused good energy in this completely optimistic movement, and the several changes in mood were clearly carved out.
The slow movement, the longest of the three, has been described as "gracefully swaying," a perfectly apt depiction. The "crisply sparkling finale" lasts a mere 3½ minutes but contains an infectious tune that violinist and pianist reveled in.
Ezerman joined the duo for Piano Trio in E-flat, D.929 (1827), by Franz Schubert (Austria, 1797-1828). Sitkovetsky called this work one of the "greatest piano trios ever written." It is a full-blown Classical/Romantic work written very near the end of the composer's life; it was one of the few late works the composer heard performed before his death.
The opening Allegro, like the Beethoven, begins with a unison line from all three musicians before the music becomes more conversational. Various topics are discussed through the course of the movement. Geniušas' sparkling playing was a delight; hints of a Schubert Impromptu served as accompaniment in the development section. Ensemble between the three musicians was terrific, all displaying wonderful nuance.
The slow movement, in C minor, features quasi-staccato accompaniment, over which Ezerman spun out the gorgeous main tune. This melody is eventually parceled out to the other two. Exquisite playing from all three was the order of the evening.
The shorter Scherzando provides an animated contrast, and all three musicians served as equal partners in the frolic. The good-humored finale brought Geniušas' sparkling playing and Sitkovetsky's and Ezerman's dynamic energy to the fore. The audience leapt to its feet in appreciation.
Although the acoustics are not as rich or ringing as in the UNCG Recital Hall, and the Steinway B piano (almost 7 feet) is no match for the university's D (almost 9 feet), the Well-Spring Theatre is a lovely addition to the list of Greensboro music venues. The seats are comfortable, with plenty of leg room, and the sight-lines are good.