Chris Lee

Leila Josefowicz and John Novacek in Recital for UCSB

Stirring Modern Music for Violin and Piano

Presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures. At the Music Academy’s Hahn Hall, Wed., Nov. 8.

Some great musicians have the ability to play difficult music and make it seem easy. Leila Josefowicz is not one of those, but what she does may be even more interesting and important: She plays difficult music and makes it seem real. By “real,” I mean that every extended technique, every glorious multiple stop or shiver-inducing run of 16th notes feels necessary, rooted in the logic of the composition rather than spun out of the musician’s desire for attention. In her program at Hahn Hall on November 8, Josefowicz teamed with John Novacek on a faultless and daring program that ranged all the way from the lush late romanticism of the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 to the icicle stabs of Sergei Prokofiev’s tragic Violin Sonata No. 1.

For aficionados of late 20th-century compositions, this recital was a particular feast, as the second half featured works by Kaija Saariaho (“Calices”) and Bernd Alois Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s violin sonata, with its startling, off-kilter rhythms, some of them derived from the rumba, made for a thrilling finale, although Josefowicz chose to soften its impact with a darling encore of Charlie Chaplin’s pop standard “Smile.”

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