Kentucky native Tessa Lark, with the assistance of Amy Yang whom we had the occasion to review in last month’s column, gives an attractive program of music for violin with and without piano. That many of these items are still comparative rarities in concert programs makes our enjoyment all the keener.
Most, if not all, the selections we have here could be described as “fantasy,” a term that describes what a composer does when he relaxes from strictly formal considerations and allows his thoughts to change and flow from moment to moment. There are many ways to do this, the common thread being that they must appeal vividly to the imagination even as they delight the listener. All the pieces in this recital do that (and how!), beginning with the three solo violin Fantasies (1,4,5) by baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann, that are interspersed throughout the album.
Contrasted movements vary in mood from sprightly and rollicking to grave and sombre. Pleasure and constant delight inform these pieces, as they also do the Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta by the well-loved Fritz Kreisler. A deceptively effortless throwback to the music of Old Vienna, it employs a waltz rhythm, first heard in the piano, while the violin spins a delicious tracery of waltz measures, becoming ever more virtuosic to the very end. This is Kreisler at his scintillating best, in a piece that rises considerably above the salon genre.
Lark, who has gained a following as a folk fiddler in addition to her prowess as a classical violinist, shows off her stuff in her own Appalachian Fantasy (2016), starting with a slow, quiet melody that is accompanied by its own drone, and giving way to ever more spirited passages with lots of stopping and lively bariolage, in a medley of tunes that include :”Cumberland Gap” and “Bonaparte’s Retreat.”
The major work on the program is Franz Schubert’s Fantasie in C Major, D934. The slow introduction to the opening section, Andante molto, is marked by sonorous tremolos and repeated chords in the piano, over which the violin soars in a long arching span. The folk-like melody in the Allegretto is treated canonically between the partners, while the tonality swings playfully from A minor to A major. Schubert’s handsome set of variations on the refrain from his song Sei mir gegrüsst, sei mir geküsst (I greet you, I kiss you) in the Andantino provides another choice delight. The way in which a long, superb buildup to a stunning fortissimo, leads into the joyous Allegro vivace is a masterstroke which is only topped by silvery figurations for the violin over soft tremolos in the piano. The Presto with its thundering, ringing triplets makes a fine impression.
Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane (gypsy), subtitled Rhapsodie de concert, makes a fitting end to a program marked by the greatest challenges for both partners. A haunting intro with gypsy-style figurations by the violin, which has the stage to itself for the first 4:19 before the piano enters with a cimbalon-like trill, is just one of the beauties of a truly bravura work. It all ends in perpetual motion, getting ever faster to the end as the genre requires. The close rapport between Tessa and Amy, noticeable throughout the program, is quite evident here.