Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 30, 2010

Close Encounters with Music

Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA
April 24, 2010
by Terry Larsen

A life spent in the company of the most gifted artists of the day endowed Frederic Chopin with a unique perception that informed his profound understanding of the evolving sensibilities, techniques, and elements of style of the period. A list of Chopin's associates is a veritable Who's Who of the greatest literary and musical figures of the early 19th Century. Music drawn from this rich web of associations served as the basis for a recent program sponsored by the Close Encounters with Music series at the Mahaiwe.

After informative remarks by Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani, pianist Adam Neiman played works for solo piano by Chopin including a Ballade, two of his Nocturnes, and a nocturne by John Field (a proponent of the genre). Neiman's sure execution was tempered with exquisite attention to melodic line and beautifully shaped phrases. His playing was inspiring throughout the evening, whether as soloist or in ensemble.

Three Caprices for two Cellos by Auguste Franchomme, one of Chopin's two piano teachers, were beautifully played by Maestro Hanani and Amy Gillingham. Violinist Stefan Milenkovich joined Neiman and Gillingham for Johann Hummel's Trio in A major. A tour de force in its own right, the three players played masterfully. Hanani and Neiman were at there very best in the playing of Chopin's last work the Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor (played the composer's own funeral). Hanani has truly mastered this exhausting score and made it his own. Neiman was responsive to the needs of every moment, playing in true partnership with the robust sonority of the cellist.

Finally, music by Paganini made its appearance in the form of excerpts from Introductions and Variations, Opus 38, and Violin Concerto No. 2, Opus 7 played by Milenkovich. The extreme technical demands and special techniques of these works are outrageous. Milenkovich introduced the pieces by saying, "they are insane!" He then proceeded to show that he was more than up to the task of conquering the technical challenges while bringing out the good humor in the pieces.