Bosendorfer concert series tackles Beethoven

In front of a crowd of classical-loving Williamstown residents and College faculty and students, the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Performing Arts Endowment sponsored another Bosendorfer concert on April 12. The concert featured an all-Beethoven program, with selections ranging from “Sonata in D Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 12, No 1” and “Sonata in A Major for Cello and Piano, Op. 69” to “Trio in D Major, Op. 70, No. 1 ‘Ghost.’”

Pianist Doris Stevenson, artist-in-residence at Williams, has performed in major cities in 46 states in addition to taking her artistic talent across oceans to Paris and Tokyo. Several recordings, featuring the works of Brahms and Mendelssohn, complement her career as a recitalist.

Stevenson’s colleague, Ronald Feldman, director of the Berkshire Symphony and an accomplished cellist, has appeared many times as a guest conductor with such ensembles as the Saint Louis Symphony, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra and the George Enescu Chamber Orchestra in Bucharest, with which he recorded a CD of Mozart pieces. A graduate of Boston University, Feldman has taught at Brandeis University and Brown University and is currently on the faculty of several conservatories.

The violinist Mark Peskanov has had an even more distinguished career both as a recitalist and as an ensemble player. In addition to frequenting all the major concert halls in the United States, Peskanov has toured in Australia, the Middle East, Japan and South America.

Following the inspiring performance of the Kreutzer Sonata that Peskanov and Stevenson delivered in the last Bösendorfer concert on March 2, these two distinguished performers united their artistic flair, effort and experience in another interpretation of Beethoven’s music.

The concert opened with a vivacious, articulate allegro con brio of the “Sonata in D major,” where the assertive voices of Stevenson’s piano and Peskanov’s violin united flawlessly. At the same time, each instrument retained its distinct, clear and original timbre. It often seems to be the case that in a performance like this one, the piano and the violin both have to make certain concessions, each leaving space for the sound of the other and adapting its own reverberation around it.

In the performances of Peskanov and Stevenson, this mutual adaptation seemed unnecessary. The two instruments combined with ease, like any two ordinary sounds may combine. The audience became absorbed in their music, urged not to look away from the stage, to ignore all other senses and to let the music become the sole guide of their perception and mood.

This sense of fluid, almost organic unison persisted through the next piece, in which Stevenson’s piano appeared to ring like a sonorous bell through the allegro of the first part. Feldman’s bow drew out elegant crescendos that rose to and fell from Chapin’s ceilings. The sounds burst forth with both lightness and with all-embracing amplitude. The melody was so distinct and powerful that it seemed possible to sing along to in a deep, mature alto or a silver-tongued and ringing baritone. It seemed that it could be accomplished in a single confident and fluent voice, not a multitude of voices.

In the final piece, the three instruments came together in a fast-paced, haunting trio, aptly named “Ghost.” The tempo grew quicker, with a certain urgency beginning to emerge on the faces of the performers. It was in this piece that the rich registers of the three instruments seemed eager to pour out their sharp sensitivities, their wealth of nuances and their rare ability to evoke moods.

At the very same time, I began to observe the faces of the other audience members and I saw an old man whose face shone with a delicate glow that almost softened his wrinkles while his shoulders leant forward, like those of an eager child. Behind his thick glasses was a fiery sparkle that spoke of bliss and of admiration for the music. Nearby girls, sandal-clad, giggled annoyingly throughout the performance. How differently do people respond to music, I thought. How fortunate that some of them do respond after all.

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