The world premiere of a work by Washington musician Herman Berlinski formed the centerpiece of a recital at Georgetown University's Dahlgren Chapel last night. Presented in honor of the national convention of the American Guild of Organists being held here through tomorrow, the program featured Berlinski on the organ and the Russian-born Israeli violinist Yuval Waldman.
A native of Leipzig who fled from the Nazis, Berlinski has led an active musical life since taking up residence in the United States a number of years ago. He tours this country and abroad frequently in the roles of composer and organist. His latest effort, "Sinfonia XI for Violin and Organ," seems to stem from deep inner convictions. It comes across as an intense, personal statement, well crafted and forcefully conveyed.
A modern extension of Bach's style, the music reveals Berlinski's capacity for writing strong contrapuntal lines and exploiting the expressive power of dissonances. A playful scherzo, with some witty rhythmic and melodic turns, is flanked by two dramatic movements. Questioning and tension mark the first, which is answered by the peaceful resolution of the final movement. The music was given a charged performance by Berlinski and Waldman.
Berlinski led into his work with Reger's "Pastorale," from Op. 65, Vol. 2, a gem of pure, flowing lines. The program began with a lovely "Chaconne" on a descending bass figure for violin and organ by the Italian Baroque composer, Tomaso Vitali. It closed with the intense, if somewhat diffuse, "Epitaph for Maximilian Kolbe" written for organ by the contemporary German composer Volker Brauetigam in memory of a Franciscan monk who died in place of a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz. Its theme drew a committed interpretation from Berlinski.