Josef Feigelson and Peep Lassmann at National Gallery's West Garden Court

Monday, February 9, 2009; 6:08 PM

It's not easy, but it is possible for performers to adjust their ensemble to the peculiarities of the National Gallery's West Garden Court acoustics. It's work, however, and work that cellist Josef Feigelson and pianist Peep Lassmann seem not to have undertaken in preparing for their concert on Sunday of all four of Mendelssohn's pieces for cello and piano.

Both Feigelson and Lassmann are powerful and expansive artists. But when they unleashed their technical and emotional arsenal on the big lush passages that Mendelssohn reveled in, the piano was allowed to overwhelm the cello, and the result was sonic confusion. Lassmann could have pulled back some to give the cello a chance to be heard, but since he didn't, solace and pleasure had to be taken in those delicate and restrained passages that Mendelssohn was also so good at.

There was the opening theme of the D-Major "Variations Concertantes" Op. 17, played lightly and with a reedy, almost vocal cello sound. Feigelson can shape phrases with the soul of a singer, and he lavished this aspect of his art in that piece and in the longing of the Op. 109 "Song Without Words." The slow movements of both of the sonatas, Op. 45 and Op. 58 -- broader and more intense but carefully balanced -- projected long phrases of almost operatic declamation. Lassmann found a wonderfully transparent touch in all of these, and, together, the two gave a hint of what could have been under other circumstances.

-- Joan Reinthaler

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