The Blue Candlelight Music Series continues to present performances on the highest level in fascinating venues. Monday night was no exception. The concert took place at the Baron House; probably one of the most luxurious mansions in the city. Concerts like this were a fixture of a bygone era when the well-to-do would have musicales and invite their circle of friends to enjoy their hospitality and a soirée concert. Well, Blue Candlelight strives to recreate this intimate and classy way to hear music for us regular folks and they certainly succeed.
Attending one of these concerts is a multi-faceted experience. As you pull up to the impressive mansion, you are met by valet parking attendants. Mine even helped me on with my suit jacket, which was hanging in the back seat. Once inside, you are greeted by waiters serving wine or sparkling water. Later, there were more waiters passing delicious canapés on silver trays. There were so many interesting people in attendance to talk with that Board Chair Richard Barrett had some trouble getting everyone to sit down so they could start. We had to be reminded that we were at a concert instead of a cocktail party.
The main room of the Baron House was re-arranged to maximize seating but the concert was slightly oversold, so some guests were seated in improvised locations. The room has decent acoustics, considering that it is not really a concert hall, and the trio rocked the rafters in the most exciting sections. The Blue Candlelight Trio is made up of violinist Gary Levinson, cellist Eugene Osadchy, and pianist Baya Kakouberi. All three have solid credentials and are world class musicians. Levinson, for example, is the Senior Principal Associate Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony.
On Monday evening, they played a concert of all Russian music from the height of the Romantic Movement. The program opened with six preludes that Dmitri Shostakovich origninally wrote for piano. They were cleverly arranged by Osadchy for a violin and cello duo and worked quite nicely in their new guise. Anton Arensky’s overripe Trio in D Minor, Op. 32, followed. The second half opened with another arrangement by Mr. Osadchy. This time, it was three pieces from Vaja Azarashvili’s folk-infused “Georgian Suite”, also originally for piano. The program ended with one of the staples of the piano trio repertoire, Tchaikovsky’s Trio, Op. 50.
Overall, the playing was on an astonishingly high level and the three players were in sync with each other throughout the evening. Intonation was right on and balance was excellent. Levinson has impressed before when he played a concerto with the Dallas Symphony. As with all violinists who spend their working days in a symphony first violin section, his high register is outstanding. His finger vibrato is just as rich and even as is his wrist vibrato is in the more reasonable registers of the instrument. Mr. Osadchy gets an equally beautiful sound from his cello. His impassive demeanor belies the passion of his playing, creating a dichotomy for the eyes and ears. Kakouberi, pianist and artistic director, was a treat to both watch and hear. None of the technical hurdles presented by the music gave her even a moment’s concern as she turned in the most musical performance of the three. Even minor accompaniment figures were lovingly shaped.
On the plus side, all three completely understood how this music should be played and, as a result, they turned in highly characteristic readings. The Russian-ness of the music came through loud and clear. But the “loud” part of that phrase was the only criticism of the performance. The trio spent way too much time in the fortissimo range, so that the really high points of the piece were just more of the same instead of the visit to goose bump territory the composers intended.
Still, it was a superlative evening of chamber music served up with an old world elegance that has regretfully passed away in our fast food world.
The next concert is on February 18, and will feature a recital by pianist Petras Geniusas.