Barry Plaxen’s Review of Borisevich Duo

October 6, 2019

Shandelee Music Festival

Bethel Woods

     On October 6, 2019, the Shandelee Music Festival presented the internationally acclaimed Borisevich Duo for the P.L.A.Y. the Classics series at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Margarita Loukachkina (piano) and Nikita Borisevich (violin) treated the audience to an exciting afternoon with two masterworks, two musical pastiches and one of the greatest of violin virtuosic works.

Loukachkina and Borisevich opened the program with Grieg’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano #3 in C minor, Op. 45.” This masterwork was Grieg’s own favorite of all his compositions. One understands why after hearing just a few notes. His melodic invention, in his later years still stemming from Norwegian folk music, is in full evidence, as is his rhythmic expansions of that melody and his glorious, signature harmonic progressions.

When Tchaikovsky composed his violin concerto, he felt the second movement was worthy of a life of its own, so composed a new second movement, deleted the original and renamed it “Meditation.” This emotionally deep work, his opus 42, was presented along with his Waltz Scherzo, Op. 34, contrasting Tchaikovsky’s depth with his frivolity.

Cesar Franck’s “Violin and Piano Sonata in A Major” is, arguably, the most popular sonata of the genre. There are exquisitely beautiful and heart-wrenching melodies in both parts, and the two lines interweaving and playing off each other is quite beautiful and very moving. Cyclical in structure, the movements are tied together by common thematic material. Themes return in successive movements throughout the piece, though often slightly varied. The way that Franck brings back the themes, whether in direct quotes or in shades of the original, is ingenious, tying the whole remarkable piece together.

Commissioned by Jascha Heifetz and composed by Franz Waxman, the “Carmen Fantasy,” a compilation of melodies from Bizet’s opera “Carmen” arranged not for just violin but for “virtuoso violin,” is one of the most thrilling pieces in the repertoire.

The two artists’ rapport with the audience was easily established via their explanations of the music, some history, and some wonderfully interesting personal connections to the music. They were in great form, and the works were presented so well that one came away from the concert with a heightened sense of both pleasure and fulfillment.

All in all, it was a perfect way to celebrate great music with great artists in a lovely setting on a Sunday afternoon.

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