The Red and the Black

Tuesdays at 8

At the Lobero Theatre, Tuesday, June 27.

Reviewed by Gerald Carpenter

Notwithstanding the admonition of the Labor Prime Minister (Ray McAnally) in A Very British Coup that “A man who’s tired of Mozart is tired of life,” I must confess to entering this Tuesdays at 8 concert feeling as if I might just have heard enough of Wolfgang Amadeus in this year of the 250th anniversary of his birth. This has been especially true since, as Jimmy Durante used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act!”

Yet Kathleen Winkler and Warren Jones soon set me straight on the foolishness of my attitude with their sublime performance of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 454. Winkler has become more celestial with every season. If she and Jones had come onstage and played just the andante, the evening could have ended with no one feeling cheated.

Jean Françaix’s Mozart New-Look for Double Bass and Double Woodwind Quintet, with the magisterial Nico Abondolo in the featured role, was a charming curio from late in the composer’s career. In form, it was a highly idiosyncratic arrangement of “Deh vieni alla finestra,” from Don Giovanni, with maybe a little of Bizet’s Carmen tucked in around the edges — all in less than three minutes.

Next, instead of Daron Hagen’s Jot!, clarinetist Richie Hawley and pianist Jonathan Feldman gave us Debussy’s sweet, haunting Première rapsodie, and I very much doubt if anyone present objected to the switch. Hawley has an extraordinarily smooth and silken tone.

After the intermission, the world was left to darkness and to Dmitri Shostakovich. First we heard violinist Jeff Thayer and pianist Anne Epperson play selected preludes from the Twenty-four Preludes, Opus 34, composed for piano, but brilliantly arranged, with the composer’s enthusiastic blessing, for violin and piano by Dmitry Tsyganov. The Preludes are not at all grim, and reveal Shostakovich’s highly developed sense of irony and playfulness. Thayer and Epperson sparkled.

Then Winkler, Jones, and cellist Alan Stepansky played the Piano Trio in E Minor, Opus 67. This was a shattering performance of a shattering work, and I was moved, as was everyone else in the hall. While he was alive, anti-Stalin, even anti-Soviet, messages were perpetually being discovered in Shostakovich’s music. Since his death in 1975, many have found that this Trio is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazis. But in 1977, Peter Eliot Stone wrote of the fourth movement’s supposed historical content, “a programmatic connection … must remain purely conjectural for lack of evidence.”

I think we should just leave it at that.

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