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A chamber music concert in the Durham Arts Council's PSI Auditorium on March 12, sponsored by the Durham Symphony Orchestra, featured artists from the National Symphony Orchestra as part of the NSO's Musician Residency Program. The musicians included Russian-born violinist Natasha Bogachek, who studied at the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory with Professor Alexander Vinnitsky. She performed extensively in Europe before coming to the United States in 1993. With her husband Zino, she is also part of the violin duo "Concertone." Cellist Rachel Young has appeared as a soloist with the National Chamber Orchestra, the New England Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, and others. Clarinetist Lorin Kitt has been with the NSO since 1970 and has performed many major works as soloist with the orchestra and as part of various ensembles. He is a highly regarded interpreter of contemporary music. Pianist Lambert Orkis has been with the NSO since 1982. He is an acclaimed chamber musician who has received numerous accolades for his performances and recordings with Ann Sophie Mutter during the past fifteen years.
The program, which had been advertised as starting at 7:30 p.m., actually began at 7:00 after a late adjustment. Attendance was light even with those who arrived expecting the later starting time. The order of the concert was switched around, and the opener was Mozart's Sonata in A, K.305, for piano and violin, the fifth of a set of six composed in 1778 in Vienna, when he trying to establish a career on his own. The piano, at the time, was still a new instrument, not yet in many homes except those of the cultured and wealthy. Mozart was striving to make a living as a musician and had no appointment yet, but he found a market for music in this form. The first movement, a sprightly allegro with Mozart's trademark Viennese tunefulness, was charmingly played by Orkis and Bogachek. The slower second movement has a trio section with some marvelously expressive runs for the piano. The closing movement is dance-like, with the piano and the violin sharing equally in the charm.
The second piece on the program, Beethoven's Trio in B-flat, Op. 11, for clarinet, cello and piano, featured Kitt, Young, and Orkis. It begins with a longish Adagio con brio that focuses on interplay among the three instruments. Beethoven states his theme, opens it up, takes it apart, passes it among the instruments, and puts it back together again. As given, the musical conversation in this piece was impressive. The adagio second movement begins with a dramatic theme and develops through conversations between the cello and clarinet, with the piano commenting and chiming in. A beautiful cello solo was the highlight. The third movement finds Beethoven, the performers, and the audience having fun with a theme and variations on an aria that caught Beethoven's fancy –"Pria ch'io l'impegno," from Joseph Weigl's L'amor marinaro, which has something to do with eating. This movement was a really delightful departure from the norm.
Mozart's Sonata in E-flat, K.380, for piano and violin, was composed in 1781. Mozart, in his 25th year, was in love with Constanze, in debt, and determined to make it on his own. All of this played roles in works composed around this time and, in this Sonata, one hears the determination of the brilliant composer. Bogachek and Orkis illustrated that determination in the music of the opening allegro movement most effectively. The beautiful second movement conveys a bit of melancholy and – definitely –longing. The Rondeau concludes the work with a dance that seems to portray even more determination, but through it shines a glimmer of confidence. The outstanding musicians gave a revealing glimpse into the mind of a composer who truly had something to say.
Bartók's "Contrasts," for violin, clarinet, and piano, brought Bogackek, Kitt, and Orkis together on the stage for a stunning performance. This piece was composed by the Hungarian master on a commission from Benny Goodman. It begins with the violin being strummed like a banjo, the piano being played percussively, and the clarinet flitting around like a butterfly. It was a realization of the title –"Contrasts" – throughout. With various conventional and non-conventional effects, the trio took us through some wild and wooly dances that Bartók culled from his deep interest in the folk music of eastern Europe. The second movement opens with an eerie passage and develops into an intimate and lovely conversation between violin and clarinet, with the piano making asides that keep it all interesting and unpredictable. The final movement danced us home, sometimes raucously, sometimes whimsically, sometimes with a gentle lullaby.
Once more we were impressed with the way chamber compositions can speak to us in intimate and revealing manners. And we were impressed with the levels of musicianship and courage in these fine artists who brave the risks inherent in being so exposed on the public stage in order to reveal the truth.