Dallas — Once again Friday evening, the Blue Candlelight Music Series delivered an outstanding musical experience to the several dozen audience members lucky enough to get tickets. Violinist Felix Olschofka and pianist Paul Posnak were the musicians for this evening of chamber music in the intimate and lovely setting of the home of Richard and Enika Schulze.
As is usual at these performances, every detail was special. Valet parking, wine, catered hors d’oeuvres and dessert are the norm. Because this concert took place on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day, Blue Candlelight treated female audience members to some charming extras: long-stemmed roses and Godiva truffles.
But it was not just the accouterments that made the evening remarkable. The music was simply terrific. Olschofka, a faculty member at the University of North Texas, has outstanding technical facility. The pieces he and Posnak performed together Friday evening tended to privilege lyricism over pyrotechnics, including Fritz Kreisler’s Liebesfreud and Liebeslied, Maria-Theresia v. Paradis’s Sicilienne, and the third of Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano.
However, it is in violinistic pyrotechnics where Olschofka truly excels. He demonstrated his skills ably in Franz Ries’s flashy La Capricciosa, and also in the less technically but perhaps more musically demanding Scherzo by Brahms from the F.A.E. Sonata.
The Schumann and Paradis pieces continue this season’s focus on women in music. Gary Levinson performed the first two of Schumann’s Romances at a previous Blue Candlelight concert this season, so Olschofka and Posnak’s performance completed the grouping. The Paradis piece, originally for piano quartet, probably was not actually composed by Paradis, alas, but instead is a reworking of part of a Carl Maria von Weber violin sonata by a violinist named Samuel Dushkin, who claimed to have discovered the Paradis Sicilienne. Still, the piece is lovely, as was Olschofka and Posnak’s rendering, and makes us aware of Paradis, a contemporary of Mozart’s who went blind as a small child but nonetheless, despite her disability and her gender, made a career as a singer, pianist, and composer.
On this program, it was University of Miami faculty member Paul Posnak’s solo turns that truly stood out. While he performed some conventional classical piano repertoire, such as Chopin’s Nocturne in F Major, Op. 15 No. 1 and his Fantaisie-Impromptu Op. 66, his forte is transcribing and meticulously reproducing improvisations recorded in the 1920s and 1930s by such musicians as George Gershwin and Fats Waller. By notating and performing these works, and publishing the transcriptions, Posnak is preserving an important aspect of American musical history that might otherwise have been lost. Also, his renditions of this music are great fun. Posnak’s love for early-20th-century American musical idioms shines through in his lively, engaging performances. The enthusiastic audience clearly agreed, showering both musicians with well-earned and enthusiastic applause.