Violinist Mary Findley gave a strange and very fine recital at the National Gallery last night. All of the music was American, and most of it was recent, beautiful and new to Washington.
A "Poem" by Rudhyar wanted a rusty edge from the violin, and this Findley provided with sobriety. It is not an easy score to play or even to like, with its relentless grief and rough articulation. The turbulence of accompanist Alan Mandel's piano resounded in the East Garden Court's cavernous acoustics, as the violin's melodic line crossed from a world of melancholy to one of desperation. It was a very persuasive reading of a disturbing work.
Gideon's "Three Biblical Masks" proved more accessible because of the score's rhythmic clarity and strong dramatic profile, if nothing else. Findley's tone was larger here, and the exuberance and violence of this music was hard to resist.
Strangest of the evening was something called "from and to, with" by Richard Felciano. It is a suite of unusual pages for violin and piano, inspired and divided by Japanese haiku. It demands far more percussive powers than the piano usually displays, while both the violin and the violinist must moan and bellow. The pitchless clouds of anguish that followed a poem about falling pine needles brought striking sonorities. Even the repeated tones on the piano seemed to eschew a discernible pattern. The work undoubtedly could benefit from repeated hearings, and these it deserves. But this performance was an immensely satisfying introduction.
The vastly more traditional A-Minor Sonata by Beach sounded soothing and nostalgic after the Felciano. Findley's playing summoned a sweet, voluptuous tone. And Mandel, who should be heard more often in concert, brought majesty and passion to the outer movements of this romantic score.