Dallas — Blue Candlelight Music Series presented two outstanding artists at its April 22 concert. Both artists arrived with extensive résumés and lauded with wordwide praise.
Violinist Mark Peskanov was born in Odessa, Ukraine (which was in the U.S.S.R at the time). At the age of 15, he immigrated to the U.S. in 1973 to study at Juilliard. His Carnegie Hall debut was a resounding success and such praise has followed him ever since. He was a discovery of Isaac Stern.
His collaborative pianist was Nina Kogan. She comes from a family of internationally recognized musicians. Her parents were the great Soviet violinists Leonid Kogan and Elizaveta Gilels. Further, she is the niece of the great pianist Emil Gilels. She graduated form the Moscow Conservatory with a D.M.A. Starting at the age of 13, she toured with her father until his death in 1982. He soloist career included appearances with many distinguished orchestras such as the Moscow Philharmonic.
The program of the concert was fluid, with Peskanov announcing changes and reordering on the fly. In fact, he started with the planned encore, a duo for two violins by Jean-Marie Leclair, a French violin virtuoso. He was joined by Gary Levinson, the Senior Associate Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. It was fast and full of notes and counterpoint. The two violinists made the most of it as they both played on assertive Stradivarius violins. It was very exciting and got the concert off on a high note or two.
While the program mostly consisted of flashy virtuoso works, two pieces featured his musicianship rather than his amazingly fleet fingers. He played two movements from Bach’s Sonata in G minor BWV 1001 and Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8, Op. 30, No. 3. Actually, these two pieces were the highlight of the concert. Kogan was an oddly detached but sensitive collaborative pianist.
The Bach was played with baroque sensibilities, such as minimal vibrato and clean bowing. The Beethoven, a work from his transition from his early period to his middle period, was also played with a nod towards historically accurate performance practices. The duo brought out some of the forward-looking passages, such as some off-beat accents. Wisely, Kogan only used the sustaining pedal for the bare minimum required. The only questionable decision was when Peskanov played the opening of the second movement too loudly, when he only had a descant to the tune in the piano.
After this, it was all showpieces. There were some of the Paganini Caprices, played with Robert Schumann’s bare-bones piano accompaniment. He also played Paganini’s Bravura Variations on his famous Caprice No. 24, which Rachmaninoff used for his ever-popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
He played a rarely programed but wonderful piece by Fritz Kreisler, his Praeludium and Allegro. Kreisler often attributed his own compositions to lesser-known 18th century composers and he put this work forth as a piece by the Italian violinist and composer Gaetano Pugnani (1731 – 1798). In these kinds of works, Kreisler imitated the style of the various composers he credited and was faithful enough to the compositional style of the eras that no one knew the difference until he finally owned up to his hoax.
The program ended with Pablo de Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. Like Liszt and Paganini, Sarasate was a virtuoso writing works to play himself on tours, so it had to be full of all of the technical tricks possible on the violin. As a result, this assembly of tunes from Bizet’s opera Carmen ifs packed with wiz-bang and almost athletic virtuosities. Peskanov was astounding as he easily knocked out some of the most difficult feats of violin playing in the repertoire. It was a wonder to behold.
However, Peskanov was plagued all evening with some noticeable intonation problems, especially with the double stops. This was too bad because it marred an otherwise brilliant performance. He certainly has the whole package, from amazingly nimble fingers to a superb bow arm. Most likely, this was just an off night for his ear.