Wednesday, October 28, 2009

REVIEW: Music Recital at the Consulate - NYC

Kinga Augustyn and Justyna Maj

by Staś Kmieć

The De Lamar Mansion Salon of Arts & Ideas, a series of cultural events organized by Polish Consulate in New York in 2006, presented their second concert of the current season with a violin-piano recital honoring the anniversary of the famed composer Niccolò Paganini’s birth. The series, the allows a showcase for young Polish artists, and opens the doors to American audiences to view the architectural wonders of the residence of the Consulate General of Poland, listen to fine music, and gain a greater appreciation of Polish compositions.

The history of the violin is a history of liberation. Composers and players have challenged to push the limits. Viewed as the instrument of angels in the 18th century, of the Devil in the 19th, in the 20th it is of the irrational and indefinable.

Violinist Kinga Augustyn, accompanied on piano by Justyna Maj began the first half with familiar traditional selections. Augustyn gave a vibrant, yet sensitive account of the Brahms Sonata No. 1, Op. 78. In the spirit of chamber music’s “give-and take,” Maj matched the idiosyncratic shifts with precision. The double stops in the score were balanced and controlled.

In a lilting rendition of Paganini’s Cantabile Augustyn exhibits splendid intonation and a hypnotic stylistic conception.

Fritz Kreisler’s standard melodic chestnut, Liebesleid, Liebesfreud was played by the violinist with characteristic warmth. Augustyn exhibits extraordinary technical assurance and fastidious musicianship. She subtly “feels” the music in her body positioning and posturing and expressive eyelids and brows.

The second half of the program elevated the evening to a sublime level - beginning with Sequenza VIII (1976) by the Italian avant-garde composer Luciano Berio. With thrilling virtuosity Augustyn created unexpected regions of angular dissonant sound with a rough-hewn vigor; negotiating the works intricate textures – pianissimo double-stopped trilling juxtaposed by edged fortissimo chords. Through unconventional techniques and theatrical gestures, Berio utilized the violin as raw material for imaginative reinvention - thoroughly engaging in effect.

Eerily pure, haunting, passionate and atmospheric is the three-piece cycle Mythes by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937). Written in the spring of 1915 and dedicated to Zofia Kochańska, wife of the accomplished violinist Paweł Kochański, who premired the piece with Szymanowski, the poems ("La Fontaine d'Aréthuse," "Narcisse," and "Dryades et Pan") for violin and piano are the quintessence of the composer’s concept of impressionism. Together with the great violinist, Szymanowski created a new violin style.

The violin technique required to perform Mythes is considerable and was well-matched in this masterful interpretation. The piece is filled with double stops, harmonics, quarter tones, and glissandi, and the composer calls for simultaneous arco bowing and left-hand pizzicato. Mythes opens with a shimmering wash of sound in the piano suggesting splashing water. At the piece’s conclusion is the flashy dance of the Dryads interrupted by Pan's flute, suggested by harmonics on the unaccompanied violin.

The evening concluded with the complex Romantic period salon piece Mazurek in G Major by Aleksander Zarzycki (1834 - 1895). Zarzycki, a Polish pianist, composer and conductor is the author of piano and violin compositions, mazurkas, polonaises, Krakowiaks, and songs. In 1871 he co-founded and became a first director of the Warsaw Music Society (Warszawskie Towarzystwo Muzyczne).