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Monday, May 17, 2010

Frankly Music Delivers Again

Classical Review

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Acoustics are the endless mystery of classical music. Last week I heard a Frankly Music performance in the Dawes Studio Theater at the Sharon Wilson Center. The sound was wonderfully warm, vibrant and clear. In fact, while listening I wondered if this was the best space for chamber music in the area. But in brief chats with the musicians after the concert they stated that they felt the room was not resonant and giving. It may be the position of the small stage, rather enclosed and separate from the larger room. Performers and listeners can have completely different experiences in an acoustical space.

We are so accustomed to Frank Almond’s musical leadership in our community that it’s possible to take it for granted. Beyond his sophisticated playing he is an eloquent speaker about classical music, and has an ability to connect with an audience with substantial content, remaining interesting and dryly witty. Due to travel I missed a concert this spring when Almond played music associated with the remarkable violin he plays, the ex-Lipinski Stradivarius, so I was glad for the opportunity to hear Tartini’s “Devil’s Trill” sonata. Tartini was the first known owner of the Strad Almond plays. One could not resist trying to imagine what this surprisingly chromatic sonata sounded like on this violin in 1750. Almond delivered it with style, fiery assertion and blazing bravura.

Also for violin and piano were four pieces from Ned Rorem’s Day Music and Night Music, 20th-century gems played with lively elegance. Pianist Michael Mizrahi, who recently joined the faculty at Lawrence University, was impressive in Rorem’s charming “Gnats.”

Joseph Johnson joined the ensemble for two piano trios: Mendelssohn’s Trio No. 1, and Dvorák’s “Dumky” Trio. The combination of Johnson and Almond has grown to a high artistic level, each bringing out the best in one another. The Mendelssohn trio was the best chamber music performance I’ve heard anywhere this season, lyrical and spirited, with nearly ideal balance. In this concert Mizrahi made the statement that a top-flight pianist has arrived in our region. We’re glad to have him.