Friday evening, June 7th was a sparkling evening at the Folly Theater, presented as a free Discovery Concert by the Harriman-Jewell Series. Violinist Elena Urioste, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, and Venezuelan pianist, Dr. Gabriela Martinez, with two degrees from The Julliard School and her doctorate from Halle, Germany, delighted the audience with three major duos of Beethoven, Debussy and Janá?ek, and some short pieces, announced from the stage.
All three sonatas were genuine duos, not violin with piano accompaniment. Especially in Beethoven's Sonata No. 5 for Violin and Piano in F Major, Op. 24, "Spring," the master gave the more challenging work to the pianist, as he knew he could play it. In the "Allegro," the piano was nuanced and florid, the violin snappily responded. From the 1800-1801 era, the piece was more reminescent of Mozart than the later, heavier pieces from LvB. In the fourth movement, "Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo," (fast, but not too much - [sounds like a Toyoto ad]) The instruments playfully toss the rondo theme back and forth, accompanying each other with varying countermelodies in an updated polyphony. Dr. Martinez maintained the ensemble's integrity throughout.
Claude Debussy's Sonata for Violin and Piano in g minor, was announced as his last work. There were sound-alikes from Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, pentatonic scale, and ethereal aural fog as from Pelléas et Mélisande; in short, everything you would expect from this mature Frenchman. Over the soft, repeated chords of the piano, the violin played a deft melody. In the third movement, "Finale: Très animé, the drama belonged to the piano, with the violin responding more delicately to the ever-stretching rondo theme (borrowed, according to the program note's author, Dr. Richard E. Rodda, from the composer's Ibéria). The ending of the sonata comes with no great build-up, just a gentle stop.
Czech composer, Leoš Janá?ek's Sonata for Violin and Piano (1914) describes the forboding beginning of the World War. The piano sets the tone with a flowing, mournful fluttering that develops into near pounding as the violin sings its melonocholic melody over the top. The pizzicato response to the jabbing melody lacked the intended fierceness needed to extend the lingering crescendo. The second movement, "Ballada: Con moto," was a softer breath of air, more like a narrative. The moderately loud "Allegretto," introduced low, muddy chords in the piano and pentatonic melody to set a bucolic, but pessimistic mood. The finale, "Adagio," relies on a chorale melody, introduced by the piano, and finally accepted by the violin, to state the resiliancy of the faith-inspired Czech people.
The duo also played Carl Engel's "Sea Shell," originally a song for voice and piano, arranged for violin and piano by Ephron Zimbalist. The piano plays the roll of the fluttering water washing the beach while the violin sounds the melody. At times, it almost seemed to sound as music emitting from a conch held close to the ear.
"Siciliano," "Hebrew Melody," and Gerschwin's "It ain't necessarily so," rounded out the program.
Despite guidance given in the program for the audience to sit on its hands after movements of single works, the continuity of the longer works was interrupted by bold applause. The full house responded enthusiastically to the program; perhaps some conversions to serious music were made.
In expectation of a return visit of this duo to Kansas City, and some dates in a recording studio.