Four Hands

Jaime Laredo. At the Montecito Country Club, Friday, February
23.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Jaime_Laredo.jpgThis concert was part of the Pearl Chase
Society Music Series, a collaboration with UCSB Arts & Lectures
that puts on chamber music recitals in historic places. Willard
Thompson gave an informative slide lecture about the history of the
lovely Montecito Country Club before the two performers took their
places for the second time that evening. The evening’s program was
all Schubert — three sonatinas and a sonata, with three of the four
works taking place in the second set: the Sonatina in D Major,
D. 384
, the Sonatina in G Minor, D. 408, and the
Sonata in A Major, D. 574. This music has everything one
could hope for in the way of lyricism upon which to build a rapport
between a pianist and a violinist, and Jaime Laredo and Leon
Fleisher, respectively, did not disappoint. It is customary to
praise performances in which the logic of a piece is displayed,
effectively picking the music apart. In this instance, while the
job of articulating the music’s structure was done perfectly, a
better description of the overall effect might be that the
musicians showed Schubert’s workmanship by putting his writing
together. Their every nuance and inflection brought greater
coherence to the whole.

The first sonatina (in D Major), offered Laredo an opportunity
to show what he can do with a baroque theme, and the result was
intoxicating. Laredo surely has one of the most distinctive and
utterly musical sounds of any contemporary violinist, and the
beauty of his interaction with Fleisher is subtle to the point of
apparent unity. Fleisher, who is the subject of an Academy
Award-nominated short film by Nathaniel Kahn, Two Hands: The
Leon Fleisher Story
, has one of the most compelling stories in
all of music. Having lost the use of two fingers of his right hand
in 1965 to a rare nerve disorder, Fleisher took up teaching and
conducting. For 40 years he searched in vain for a treatment that
would allow him to return to what had been a very promising career
as a concert pianist. Finally, in 2004, after discovering his
condition could be relieved by regular injections of Botox,
Fleisher made a second Carnegie Hall debut, receiving widespread
acclaim for his performance. Since then he has been back on the
concert circuit with Laredo and others, demonstrating conclusively
that miracles do happen. He sounded wonderful on Friday, more than
fulfilling the role of accompanist to Laredo as he blended his
lines elegantly with those of the violin.

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