Zukerman Trio presents fiery, full-blooded playing for Drucker’s return

By Lawrence Budmen

Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth performed in a chamber concert Tuesday night at New World Center.

The anticipated debut of Judy Drucker’s Great Artists Series on Tuesday night at the New World Center featured the Zukerman Trio in a generous program of Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor and duos by Mozart, Schumann and Kodaly. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the nearly-full house and Drucker received a prolonged ovation when she came on stage to make a pre-concert speech.  That sense of occasion carried over to the performance with violinist Pinchas Zukerman, cellist Amanda Forsyth and pianist Angela Cheng playing at fever pitch.

Mozart’s Sonata in G Major for violin and piano was the lively opener. Cheng’s crisp attack and lightness of touch were ideal for Mozart’s engaging score, the first of four sonatas written in Mannheim by the 22-year-old composer. A fine Mozartean, Zukerman exhibited fleet, light bowing and his stylish approach utilized only moderate vibrato.

Forsyth, Zukerman’s wife, is principal cellist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. She commands a darkly burnished sonority and formidable technique. Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro is an emotionally volatile, romantic score. Originally written for horn and piano, Schumann later transcribed the wind part for cello. Forsyth attacked the introduction with intense fervor, dashing off the Allegro at a fierce clip. She brought passion, depth of expression and splendid musicianship to this beautiful vignette. Cheng was a sympathetic collaborator, shaping Schumann’s pianistic line in grandly romantic manner.

Zoltan Kodaly’s virtuosic Duo for violin and cello contrasts the timbres of the two instruments and challenges the players’ dexterity, and Zukerman and Forsyth gave a bravura performance. Like his friend Bartok, Kodaly combined Hungarian folk elements with the new sounds sweeping Europe in the early 20th century. The opening Allegro of the Duo presents an agitated, angular motif, exploiting the instruments’ highest and lowest registers.

Zukerman brought an expressive anguish to the Adagio, a dark, Bartok-like lament. In the central interlude, the violinist played a rustic melody while Forsyth strummed her cello like a huge guitar. The married musicians threw off the finale at a whirlwind tempo, conveying the music’s wild gypsy abandon.

Angela Cheng

Zukerman, Forsyth and Cheng joined forces for the Mendelssohn trio. The performance offered less of the angst-ridden darkness that many artists bring to the score. Their lighter, more muscular approach was refreshing while still true to the spirit of Mendelssohn’s music.

Cheng was somewhat hampered by the bright sound and limited tonal color of the New World Center’s house Yamaha but she managed to work miracles with the instrument’s limitations. The Andante provided a moment of contrast in this high-spirited performance, with its rapt, song-like interlude. The Scherzo was brisk and danced lightly. The drama of the outer movements was manifest with finely honed interplay by the three musicians in an exciting finale.

With the cheering audience on its feet, the trio offered Fritz Kreisler’s Miniature Viennese March, a delightful confection for an encore. Zukerman reveled in the witty touches of dissonance amid Kreisler’s musical schmalz.

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Wed Mar 28, 2012
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