The recital of cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan on Sunday, March 30, in Tiedtke Hall presented by the Bach Festival Society turned out to be an impromptu affair.
Pleading illness, cellist Weilerstein did not play the first half as planned, leaving pianist Barnatan with an hour of piano solo to fill the required performing time. He did so nobly and fittingly, by playing a dazzling Mendelssohn “Capriccio” followed by the lengthy, weighty and Beethoven-esque Franz Schubert Sonata in A Major, (1828).
Remembering these artists from last season’s Academy of St. Martin’s In The Fields concerto performances, there was no chance that this change in the Sunday program would short change anyone in artistry.
Barnatan’s pianism is prodigious, with its clear melodic lines, his nuanced liquid runs and arpeggios, and his musical concepts that bring forth pianism of satisfying dimensions. He has a charming way of playing very softly in a manner that this reviewer has encountered in only a few other fine pianists.
I asked a charming noted local pianist at the intermission how she was enjoying the concert and she said, “I love it, I stopped breathing about an hour ago!”
After intermission, cellist Alisa Weilerstein appeared on stage and the program proceeded as printed. She is a cellist of extraordinary talent and her return was welcomed by all who had heard her last season. After performing seven “Selections from 24 Preludes” by Lera Auerbach — which were pleasingly humorous, often atonal, tongue-in-cheek, and even Shostakovian! — Weilerstein and partner Barnatan launched into the final piece on the program, the Sonata in G minor by Sergei Rachmaninoff whose splashing right hand chords were right up Barnatan’s pianistic alley.
Evaluating the artistry of these performers calls for listeners who have had many years of concert going, and have heard many of the great master performers. This is artistry at its very best: well thought out, impeccably played and breathtakingly beautiful. Finding two artists who communicate with such perfection is an audience members dream! We joined an audience standing on its feet applauding excellence. Thank you, Bach Festival Society.