Violinist Schmidt displays depth and maturity

By David Fleshler

The typical young virtuoso comes off best in flashy pieces designed to show off technical skills and youthful energy. But the 26-year-old violinist Giora Schmidt displayed a deeper musical personality at his concert Sunday at the University of Miami, appearing at his most impressive in substantial works in which the fine pianist Rohan De Silva performed as equal partner.

 A protégé of Itzhak Perlman, Schmidt has a warm, rich tone and an apparently limitless technique. In the final season event of the Sunday Afternoons of Music series, Schmidt and De Silva offered a program that nicely balanced musical substance with crowd-pleasing bonbons. But although Schmidt brought off the most difficult works without breaking a sweat, he lacked the extroverted musical personality necessary for the big virtuoso pieces and appeared more at home with Brahms and Debussy.

 The duo opened with the Devil’s Trill Sonata by the 18th century violin virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini. Most sonatas for violin and piano treat the two instruments as equal partners. This isn’t one of them, and Schmidt hung back a bit too much during the rapid passagework, which lacked bite and power. But his playing of the difficult trill passages – in which the violinist holds trills on one string while playing a driving, ascending passage on the adjacent string – was flawless, with none of the pseudo-dramatic slowing up that other violinists employ to conquer the technical difficulties.

 In many ways, the Brahms Sonata in A Major is the opposite of the Tartini. It treats the two instruments as equals, provides few opportunities for technical display and conveys a mood of easygoing warmth. Schmidt and De Silva had just the right touch – relaxed but never vague – to bring out the lyricism of Brahms’ music.

 The two were at their best in Debussy’s wistful Sonata for Violin and Piano, written during World War I as the composer was dying of cancer. Here Schmidt’s effortless playing served him well, as he didn’t allow the technical difficulties of the part to make him disturb the shimmering surface of the music. Schmidt and De Silva brought out the nostalgia, playfulness and sensuousness of one of the composer’s last works.

 The recital concluded with a series of short works announced from the stage, and here the violinist took the primary role. He gave a throaty, virile performance of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 1. His left hand ran up and down the fingerboard to negotiate the rapid passages of Kreisler’s Tambourin Chinois and the de Falla/Kreisler Danse Espagnole. He and De Silva offered a glossy, sweet-toned performance of Debussy’s Clair de Lune. Schmidt clearly can make the violin do whatever he wants, and his musical maturity puts him ahead of many young performers.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Mon Jun 15, 2009
at 11:53 am
No Comments