Condensed “Fall Assignment” – The Boston Musical Intelligencer
Daniel Kurganov, violin; and Constantine Finehouse, piano, offered a condensed version of “Autumn Affection” a few days ago for Music Mondays at the Scandinavian Center in Waltham. The duo are planning their recital debut at Merkin Hall NYC on October 12 with the full version of it.
Baal Shem, three images of Hasidic life, by Ernest Bloch begins with Empty, or Contrition, a song of confession, a violin solo “dolente et dolce, painful and sweet” on a piano accompaniment composed of solid or broken chords. EmptyI alternate between these two moods. The internal agony is expressed in phrases of two to three notes that offer little lyricism, melodic outline or resolution. When the opening phrase is repeated well in the piece, it is an octave higher than at the beginning, communicating more struggle. We hear few cadences and minimal tonal resolution, but the piece ends with an E major chord. Kurganov captured the mood, sliding between the first two notes rather than playing them cleanly. He meticulously followed the dynamic directions of the score and played with a rich and varied sound. The assured support of Finehouse highlighted the musical agony.
Nigun, a Jewish religious song, explores the mystical soul through triplets, repeated intervals, scales with a lowered second and minor chords underlined by rapid ascending arpeggios on the violin. In the section marked Poco meno lento, calm reigns. Repeated major triads fleetingly contribute to an optimistic mood. Returning to the pain and depth of the human soul, a four-note motif resulting in a recap of the opening theme an octave higher than originally heard. The calm returns just before the end and ends with a sober and reassuring D major chord. The last movement is Sim’has Torah, a rejoicing in the Torah. The main element, a one-bar three-note pattern, is tossed around and responded, but eventually disappears. There is a lot of interaction between the instruments amid expressions of primitive joy. The beautiful musicality of the duo was on display throughout, channeling pathos and joy using all the possibilities of their instruments.
The Kurganov-Finehouse duo ordered Dawn for violin and piano by Stephanie Ann Boyd. Instructions in his score evoking the cosmos, that is to say “Endless space; of pure loneliness ”alternate with traditional interpretive instructions, ie“ tender, gentle, a lullaby ”. Boyd’s ascending piano scales often begin in the second half of the quarter note, seeming to come out of nowhere. Boyd notes a 12 bar interlude, “A Deep Sigh; fly through the stars. A circular movement is evoked by the repetitive gesture of the piano which consists of a range of whole tones ascending and descending in a 6 to a 16 beat.e-note rhythm. The piano provides the bright, dancing lights of dawn while the long lines of the violin are reminiscent of space and time. The listener arrives at the inescapable conclusion that the terrestrial union of time and space produces love, our most enduring emotion.
Turgenev’s romantic short story “Song of Triumphant Love” inspired Chausson Poem. As part of his opening remarks, Daniel played the theme of love, a leitmotif heard throughout. Poem begins Lento e mystyerioso, with the solo piano alluding to the theme of love. The violin enters playing the theme of love, which is then picked up by the piano with full accompaniment in chords. The Animato sections alternate with those marked lento. Moments of passion and fury give way to gentleness. A series of ascending trills on the violin ends the Allegro section in D major and brings us back to the tranquility of the opening key, E flat major. Fragments of the love theme eventually disintegrate into a series of descending trills.
Brahms Sonata for violin and piano n ° 3 op. 108 in D minor closed the concert. Kurganov claimed that Brahms’ latest statement in this form is the most perfect. The first movement embodies musical integrity, as Brahms certainly goes from idea to idea. The singing melody of the second movement, played in the lower register of the violin, carries the four-note motif, long-short-short-short. The piano plays on each beat of the triple meter. Magnificent and exhilarating, the second movement ends too early. The third movement, although laconic and Un poco presto, is nonetheless marked by the feeling of fraud. It is a mischievous and devious interlude. The fourth movement opens full of noise and fury. The theme consists of an initial jump down into longer notes followed by an arched line. However, by mr. 39 we are in quiet territory, with the piano in choral mode introducing a four-note lyrical theme. The contrasting elements, the laconic exchanges between piano and violin and the ever shorter thematic motifs lead the piece to its dramatic conclusion.
With confidence and conviction, the duo responded to the myriad of musical demands to a high degree of perfection. We can’t wait to hear or read the duo’s New York debuts and can’t wait to hear them again at the Scandinavian Cultural Center.
Retired medical biology researcher Dinah Bodkin is a serious amateur pianist and the mother of Groupmuse founder Sam Bodkin.