New York Times: A Cozy Chamber Concert Buoyed by Lapping Water

April 17, 2011

Anyone who has never attended a Bargemusic concert may find it hard to believe that a converted old barge docked at the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn is an ideally intimate place to hear chamber music. It is.

Still, the weather can sometimes intrude on this floating concert hall. Damage from the rain and howling wind on Saturday night almost caused the cancellation of an enticing program on Sunday afternoon featuring three exciting artists: the pianist Ignat Solzhenitsyn, the violinist Andy Simionescu and the cellist Matt Haimovitz.

The storm caused the gangplank from the plaza to the deck of the barge to fold under itself. It took a workman a couple of hours on Sunday morning to straighten it out. But by afternoon, things were back to normal. And the weather, though windy, was clear and inviting, so much so that my partner and I biked to Brooklyn from the Upper West Side. At Bargemusic you can attend concerts in shorts, T-shirts, whatever.

Though an acclaimed pianist, Mr. Solzhenitsyn is increasingly known as a conductor, now the principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Mr. Haimovitz has played with major orchestras but won a loyal following by taking his music to unorthodox settings, including rock clubs and pizza houses. He performs often with Mr. Simionescu, as on their eclectic new CD, “Goulash!”

The program opened with Mozart’s Piano Trio in B flat (K. 502) in a stylish, lively performance that conveyed both the elegance and the inventiveness of the music. Next came the premiere of “Tiituru” for violin and cello, written for Mr. Simionescu and Mr. Haimovitz by the Transylvanian composer Adrian Pop. Like Bartok, Mr. Pop boldly merges Eastern European folk music with modernist contemporary styles. This 10-minute duo is filled with passages in which either the cello or the violin provides insistent accompanimental figures as the other breaks loose in elegiac, fitful melodic flights. The piece builds to a meter-fracturing dance, then ends quizzically, with subdued, piercing harmonies for the cello and a wistful fiddle tune.

In introducing Shostakovich’s Piano Sonata No. 1, Mr. Solzhenitsyn said that this 15-minute single-movement piece, written in 1926, when Shostakovich was 20, is rarely played. At the time, Shostakovich was swept up in atonality. The sonata begins with a brutal, gritty Allegro that sounds like Prokofiev on a 12-tone binge. There are fleeting passages of repose, including an episode in which a lacy theme penetrates harmonic mists. Mostly this technically daunting sonata is wild and raucous, with arm-blurring octaves and steely bursts of thick, dissonant chords, culminating in what could be a perpetual-motion toccata. Mr. Solzhenitsyn played with fearlessness and command.

The program ended with a magisterial account of Brahms’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C. As always at these informal concerts, the musicians lingered to talk with music lovers from the audience. Not that there is anyplace for the players to hide out on the barge.

By Anthony Tommasini

View article at New York Times

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