Kelemen and Wosner, Unifying Extremes

Barnab¿s Kelemen performed in a program that included Bart¿k and Mozart.
Barnab¿s Kelemen performed in a program that included Bart¿k and Mozart. (Www.barnabaskelemen.com)

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The music of Mozart and Bart¿k could not be more different, and it is more than time and distance that divide them. The 18th-century, Salzburg-born Mozart addresses the outside world, remains strongly centered, and sings with seemingly God-given melodic invention. Bart¿k, the 20th-century modernist from Hungary, wrestles with dissonance. He injects folk-inspired materials collected through research and emits a kind of inwardness that touches realms of psychological retreat and loneliness. Delineating and reconciling such differences was the strength of the Monday evening Terrace Theater recital of violinist Barnab¿s Kelemen and pianist Shai Wosner.

In his Violin Sonata in G, K. 301, Mozart reaches for his well-known genial and gracious manner. Mozart brings equilibrium to the violin and piano parts with both assigned ample music, teeming with details. Kelemen and Wosner, Hungarian and Israeli-trained musicians respectively, kept everything in balance while etching dapper ornaments, here a flittering trill in the piano, there thickening double-stops from the violin. The nocturnal Bart¿k First Violin Sonata is a bleak affair in comparison, riding on jagged harmonies, slashing violin lines and lilting themes. After a powerful first movement and desolate middle, the finale hurled along in a rabid dash.

The Debussy and Brahms on the program brought together the extremes. The Frenchman Debussy completed his organized and elegant 1917 Violin Sonata less than a decade before the Bart¿k sonata, but the delicacy and precision of the performance placed the three movements closer to Mozart. Brahms's Third Sonata emerged with a fire and grittiness that reveal earthy roots, as well as Brahms's and Bart¿k's shared love of Gypsy sounds.

Playing at once thoughtful and fiery unified this smartly conceived evening, presented by the Fortas Series.

-- Daniel Ginsberg


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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