Probably only a musician could understand Carlos Prieto's compulsive switch from successful businessman to concert cellist, a decision whose seriousness is supported by an impressive repertoire and list of recent appearances as well as by the program he chose for his Terrace Theater recital last night in the OAS-Kennedy Center series.
Bach's Second Gamba Sonata was full of rhythmic clarity and textural balance, with an Andante that was beautifully conceived and expressed. Both Prieto and pianist Doris Stevenson were likewise at ease with the many moods as well as the technical and ensemble demands of the D Minor Sonata by Shostakovich. It is a marvelous work, full of subtlety, wit and passion, none of which was slighted in this fine rendering.
Zolta'n Koda'ly's Unaccompanied Sonata, Op. 8, faired less well. One of the most demanding works in the repertoire, it requires a breadth of concept that will bring its asymmetrical folk rhythms and melodies into coherent balance. Despite a generally adequate and sometimes dazzling technique, and even with moments of rhapsodic abandon and great intensity, Prieto's performance remained unconvincing. There was simply too little involvement with phrasing, timing and overall direction.
The recital concluded with a Tchaikovsky showpiece, his "Pezzo capriccioso, Morceau de concert." Prieto's sensitive and brilliant playing could only have been improved with a tone of greater depth and warmth, such as that heard in his encore, Faure's "Ele'gie."