Zazovsky and Levin bring Sunday Afternoons series full circle in 30th anniversary concert

By Alan Becker

Amid speeches, tributes and fond memories, Doreen Marx—the guiding light and driving force behind Sunday Afternoons of Music–celebrated the 30th anniversary of the music series with an inspired duo recital at the University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall.

Violinist Peter Zazofsky and pianist Michele Levin are also marking the anniversary, having been the first artists to appear at these concerts three decades ago when it was still presented at a Miami temple, and their return was met with warm applause.

Both have roots in South Florida, with Zazofsky having attended Coral Gables High School, while Levin has performed with the Miami String Quartet and the Florida Philharmonic.

Schubert’s Sonatinas were originally called Sonatas by the composer. When published after the composer’s death they were renamed Sonatinas when Schubert’s brother turned them over to the publisher, calling them “easy, very fine sonatas.” The Sonatina in A minor, D. 385 is the second of the group, and its four movements encapsulate all that is fresh and song-like in Schubert’s finest achievements.

Zazofsky largely kept his dynamics refined and delicate, save for some apt added strength in the Menuetto and Allegro finale. The violinist’s ability to control tonal production and clarity at low volumes was masterly, even at the risk of sometimes risking inaudibility with his hushed dynamics.  Pianist Levin’s subtle phrasing and delicacy added its own special beauty to Schubert’s writing.

Richard Strauss’s Sonata in E-flat, Op.18 was written when the composer was 23. It is in a luxuriant romantic style with foreshadows of Der Rosenkavalier and other works to come. Zazovsky and Levin put across a performance that had all the necessary passion and volume required. If the piano took the lion’s share of the argument, Strauss provided the violin with the finest melodic material. In the impish, and Eulenspiegel-like closing movement, Zazofsky and Levin emerged with all the brilliance and bold contrast one could wish for.

Zazofsky took the stage alone for Eugene Ysaye’s amazing Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 27, No. 2, dedicated to the celebrated Jacques Thibaud. Starting with a quote from the Prelude to Bach’s Partita in E, Ysaye subjects it to an imaginative series of variations–some quite modern in concept.  Employing all the tricks of the trade, Ysaye’s creativity drew bold execution from Zazofsky and elegance of phrase to match, the violinist emerging unscathed from the work’s complexities.

Keeping with the dark side, Tartini’s Devils Trill Sonata in G minor was played in the arrangement by Fritz Kreisler, in a performance put across with total commitment by both players. Henryk Wieniawski’s Fantasy Brilliant on Gounod’s Faust provided yet another brilliant showpiece for Zazovsky and Levin with a tenderly caressed transcription of Josef Suk’s melancholy piano piece, Song of Love, making fine contrast. The audience’s loud and enthusiastic ovations elicited more encores at this memorable anniversary event, celebrating a series that remains an important component of Miami’s classical scene.

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Mon Jan 31, 2011
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