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Saturday, January 29, 2005; Page C05

Christopher Maltman

Christopher Maltman possesses a voice of singular power, beauty and refinement. This British baritone gave an exceptional recital on Thursday evening at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, which was presented by the Vocal Arts Society of Washington. Rising on the sensitive accompaniment of pianist Roger Vignoles, Maltman drew from a rich palette and endowed the songs of English and German composers with color, texture and line. Whether conjuring an evanescent image or a scheming character, Maltman inhabited the music and brought the texts to life.

Maltman showed himself to be a fierce communicator. Works of Henry Purcell, such as "We Sing to Him," possessed all the required warmth and confidence. The songs of the 19th-century German romantic Carl Loewe, based on the poems of Goethe and Johann Herder, had all the drama and character of an opera. Maltman breathtakingly rendered three characters in Loewe's version of the "The Erl-King" and lathered up the brooding "Edward" into a rage of sound and sentiment.

The Gryphon Trio delivered music of many colors in its performance at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. (Corcoran Gallery Of Art)

Yet Maltman easily turned inward in Ralph Vaughan Williams's lovely song cycle, "Songs of Travel." The baritone convincingly painted the physical and emotional landscape of a solo traveler. The passionate Morike songs of Hugo Wolf were at once fierce, touching and witty. The closing "Abschied" floated across the hall like an airy spindle of gold.

-- Daniel Ginsberg

The Gryphon Trio

The Gryphon Trio engrossed listeners at the Corcoran Gallery of Art on Thursday evening by filling its music to the brim with myriad colors.

Seldom did the Toronto-based musicians pull out the same hue twice, resulting in dynamics of unusual depth and variety throughout their idiomatic performance of trios spanning three centuries.

Violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon, pianist Jamie Parker and cellist Roman Borys basked in the jovial elegance of Mozart's endearing Trio in G, K. 496. Their communicative playing style, reflexively balanced, allowed the work's lyricism to emerge with simple charm.

Utilizing calibrated amounts of drama and wit, they dove into the layered textures of Brahms's Trio in C Minor, Op. 101. The composition's four movements unfolded like different flavors of candy, ranging from the vanilla nougat of the peaceful third to the licorice spice of the rhythmic fourth. The ensemble took great pleasure in creating fuller sounds but also respected the natural ebb of the music, allowing it to recede properly every time.

Though it arrived last on the program, Shostakovich's Trio, Op. 67, proved Gryphon's musical arsenal was far from exhausted. Indeed, the musicians appeared to save their best effects for this particular work. Among the most memorable moments: the strings' intense swells in the second movement; the piano's thunderous introductory chords giving way to the poignant string melody in the third; and the trio's strummed notes fading slowly away in the finale.

The concert was part of the Corcoran's Musical Evening Series.

-- Grace Jean

Enrique Graf and Lee-Chin Siow

In a violin recital, it's quite rare for the pianist to get top billing.

But when Enrique Graf stepped to the keyboard with the relatively unknown Lee-Chin Siow on Thursday evening at the Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center, the reversal was understandable. Graf, winner of the William Kapell competition in 1978, has gone on to a distinguished career as soloist and recitalist. Siow has a couple of major competition medals under her belt, but she has yet to achieve a high-profile reputation on the concert stage.

Siow was clearly at her best while playing lyrical passages, notably in "La ultima cancion" ("The Last Song"), a beautiful aria by Uruguayan composer Cesar Cortinas. Claude Debussy's Violin Sonata was more of a duet than a violin solo, highlighted by Graf's flowing arpeggios, in a strong yet not overpowering performance. But the work received an uneven reading from Siow, who played scale passages like practice material, along with a few more squeaks than one would have liked to have heard. The duo captured the whimsical mood of the middle movement, which was a showpiece for the pianist as well as the violinist, and Siow proved her grace in the tricky final movement.

The two were excellent partners in the youthful Violin Sonata, Op. 18, by Richard Strauss. Both poured passion into the romantically rising lines, and Graf anchored the final movement with his flourishes rippling gracefully beneath Siow's flashy bowing.

The recital, one in a series of early evening programs presented by the IDB Cultural Center, was an ever so pleasant alternative to rush-hour traffic.

-- Gail Wein

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