Pavel Pekarsky is 14 and goes to South Lakes High School in Reston. He has been playing the violin since the age of 5, when he started in Moscow. He and his family emigrated here two years ago.
Sunday afternoon, Pekarsky joined the Beethoven Pops Orchestra, in which his father plays the violin, for a concert at the Capital Hilton ballroom.
He performed the sunny and relatively tuneful Violin Concerto by the contemporary Russian composer Dmitri Kabalevsky. It is a conservative work constructed a little like the Prokofiev violin concertos, but lacking in their depth and sophistication. It is, however, a splendid test piece for the developing artistry of a young violinist. The first and third movements juxtapose fast themes built on whirlwind scales and runs with sadly lyric material that tests the legato style.
Pekarsky is not a fully developed talent (who is at 14?) but he is promising. The digital agility needed for the fast passages came easily. The pitch was secure both there and in the lyric sections. He phrases naturally -- not at all the virtuoso automaton, like some child prodigies.
His command of dynamic and tonal contrasts was hard to judge. Sometimes the orchestra blanketed his playing, but that may have been the fault of the acoustics. During the concerto his tone seemed small. But for the encore Bach fugue a mike was moved closer and the tone seemed quite full.
The Bach, of course, presents enormous interpretive challenges. Pekarsky came through them impressively. He managed to keep a quite steady pulse as he played the fugue's harmonic and contrapuntal complexities. The Bach was only about five minutes long, but Pekarsky's success with it probably told more about his potential than the whole of the Kabalevsky did.