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The program was easy on the ears, if not exactly groundbreaking: the familiar "Suite Castellana" and the "Sonatina" of Federico Moreno Torroba, Isaac Albeniz's ubiquitous "Asturias," a couple of Heitor Villa-Lobos's ear-bending etudes, Manuel Ponce's "Sonatina Meridional" and Agustin Barrios Mangore's "La Catedral" -- a work performed so often in Washington that it seems to be required by law. The only soft spot in the program was a sentimental, pseudo-Spanish pastiche by Croatian composer Stjepan Sulek called "The Troubadours Three." Vidovic brought out everything that the piece had to offer -- and possibly more -- before ending the evening with Francisco Tarrega's "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" as an encore.
-- Stephen Brookes
Music From Bard Conservatory
Students and faculty from New York's Bard College Conservatory of Music set aside their academic roles on Saturday evening at the Library of Congress and collaborated in deliberate performances of 19th-century chamber works.
Though teachers and students delivered equally polished performances, the conceptual interpretations of Brahms's String Quintet No. 2 in G, Op. 111, and Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat, Op. 44, were driven largely by the professors -- violinist Ida Kavafian in the former and pianist Melvin Chen in the latter.
Under Kavafian's tenacious lead, the Brahms sounded as robust as a young red wine, full of tannic bite but lacking in complexities.
Second violinist Tina Zhang tempered the fire with subtleties when she could, often generating response from cellist Peter Wiley, who grounded the work with shapely phrases. Violists Shuangshuang Liu and Liyuan Liu rounded out the ensemble with warm tones.
The Schumann, on the other hand, was more of a mature red wine, full of lyrical expression and sophistication. If Chen's technique wasn't always perfectly clean, he still inspired focused and refined ensemble playing from his team, violinists Luosha Fang and Yuan Ma, violist Liyuan Liu and cellist Robert Martin.
Pianist Jeremy Denk's darkly intense performance of Liszt's Sonata in B Minor was a captivating and probing journey of sonorities, emotions and technical brilliance. The faculty member capitalized upon passages that sounded improvisatory, in fits of consternation, whimsy, romance and joy.