Grieg, Rachmaninoff sonatas showcased at Miami Summer Music Festival

By Peter James Learn

Pianist Walter Ponce performed at the Miami Summer Music Festival Thursday night.

Pianist Walter Ponce performed at the Miami Summer Music Festival Thursday night.

In an impressive display of technical prowess and Romantic passion, three faculty members of the Miami Summer Music Festival presented a short program of chamber music Thursday night at Barry University. The concert, held in the intimate Andy Gato Gallery, was well attended by an enthusiastic audience of all ages. Violinist Gary Levinson and Amernet Quartet violist Michael Klotz were joined by the prestigious pianist Walter Ponce for a pair of demanding sonatas.

Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in C-minor, OP. 45, opened the program. The most popular of Grieg’s three works in the genre, the sonata was a favorite of the composer’s and the one that he spent the most time revising.

Grieg’s sonata displayed the considerable virtuosity of Ponce and Levinson. Both musicians infused their performances with passion, which sometimes tipped over into aggression. Ponce’s touch was fitfully heavy for the venue and the music, though his rendition of the first movement’s second theme, displayed a more subtle and sensitive tone.

Likewise, the pianist’s playing in the second movement was graceful and emotive, though unfortunately marred by a thoughtless patron’s cellphone ring. Levinson’s agile pizzicato passages here and excellent control of phrasing were highlights. The duo energetically showcased the third movement’s driving folk rhythms and virtuosic fireworks, with Levinson fluidly navigating the gymnastic stops and ballistic scalar passages.

The second half of the concert was comprised of a piano and viola arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata in G minor. Ponce ably handled the demanding piano passages, though some of Rachmaninoff’s fistfuls of notes led to a few minor slips. Klotz’s sense of phrasing in the first movement was excellent and his choice to render solo viola passages in an almost pale tone produced an arresting effect.

The second movement’s propulsive opening showed tight coordination and timing. Both musicians displayed excellent technical prowess here, and Klotz’s rendition of the sensitive second theme was poignant and lyrical. His performance of the pizzicato passages was also noteworthy, with his technique approaching “Bartok” snap-pizzicato, allowing these notes written for the cello to speak on his viola.

Ponce’s solo opening of the third movement was evocative, and Klotz’s melodic passages here were beautifully rendered. The fireworks of the fourth movement, taken at breakneck speed by the duo, showcased their virtuosity and Klotz’s performance of the driving, folk-like rhythms was especially notable.

The Miami Summer Music Festival continues 7:30 p.m. Friday at Barry University’s Broad Performing Arts Center, with winners of the concerto competition and a performance of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben.

Posted in Performances

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Fri Jul 17, 2015
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