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Kim Kashkashian And Lydia Artymiw
The internationalism of the program was as impressive as the playing in Sunday's recital by violist Kim Kashkashian and pianist Lydia Artymiw at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda. Kashkashian, of Armenian descent, and Artymiw, of Ukrainian parentage, started with a German work: Bach's Sonata No. 3 for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord. They gave it a warm, emotional reading, slightly marred by the full sound of a modern Steinway overwhelming the viola in some passages.
The instrumental balance was better in the 20th-century works that made up the rest of the recital. Excerpts from Romanian-Hungarian composer Gy¿rgy Kurt¿g's "Signs, Games and Messages," for solo viola, were interlaced with pieces from his "J¿t¿kok" for solo piano. The atonal miniatures featured very wide dynamics and expressiveness, ranging in mood from aggressive to quietly contemplative.
Next came a visit to Argentina: Three Songs for Viola and Piano by Carlos Guastavino. The piano begins all of these broadly romantic works and often takes a dominant role, but Kashkashian's viola stood forth warmly and beautifully, especially in the hauntingly lovely "Bonita Rama de Sauce."
Then it was on to Russia for Shostakovich's daunting Sonata for Viola and Piano. The first movement was a touch lacking in intensity, but the grotesqueries of the second were nicely highlighted. And the finale, permeated by bits of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata, was dark and impassioned, eventually not so much ending as subsiding.
A quick trip to Armenia, for a folk-song encore, was a delightful way to lighten the mood and end the musical tour.
-- Mark J. Estren
Capital Wind Symphony
Washington is home to many choral and orchestral groups, but the birthplace of John Philip Sousa, the "March King," boasts few wind ensembles aside from military and collegiate bands. Fortunately, a number of talented instrumentalists have sought out these rare outlets, including the McLean-based Capital Wind Symphony, which gave a fine performance Sunday afternoon at the Schlesinger Concert Hall.
The 70-member group, under conductor George Etheridge, excelled at the jazz-influenced "Blue Shades" by Frank Ticheli. With the brass growling away and the woodwinds brightly nailing all the licks, the ensemble journeyed from the sultry sounds of a blues club to the wailing music of the big band era. Likewise, in Michael Gandolfi's "Vientos y Tangos," the wind symphony generated intense Latin rhythms and a variety of moods as it showcased its impressive clarinet section.
Playing with warmth and clarity, the winds demonstrated a keen sense of balance in Haydn Wood's "Mannin Veen," based upon four folk tunes from the Isle of Man, the English composer's childhood home.
The group generated glorious swells in Ralph Vaughan Williams's "Variations for Wind Band," but it also created layer upon layer of sonorities to the point where listeners had to work hard to distinguish the melodies from the muddle. The hall was partly to blame, much as it was at fault in an arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565. Both pieces lacked the crystalline passages that the ensemble displayed in other works.
-- Grace Jean