Jody Gatwood is a violinist who thrives in both the athletic and the cerebral camps of artistic performance. In the music of composers like Bach or Beethoven, he can seek out nuances and speak volumes quietly. Music by Paganini and Ysaye and their ilk, however, brings out the flashy virtuoso side of his nature, and he plays it with an impetuosity that is the more startling for its contrast with the care he accords the rest. In pianist Brian Ganz, he has a like-minded and like-talented partner, and the two longtime associates collaborate with an ensemble that permits each marvelous freedom.
At Mt. Vernon College's Post Hall yesterday they played a program that spanned an enormous variety of styles, projecting each with energy and engaging intensity. Most interesting were three pieces from "Day Music" by Ned Rorem, particularly the middle one called "Extreme Leisure" with its piano ostinato and languid violin lines, and a fascinating transcription for violin, by violinist Jaap Schroder, of the organ toccata from the Bach D minor Toccata and Fugue. Gatwood noted some questions in scholarly circles about the authenticity of the organ work but, be that as it may, its translation from quintessential organ idiom to quintessential violin idiom is astonishing. It opened the concert quiet splendidly.
The program also included sonatas by Beethoven, Debussy and Ysaye, and some romantic delights by Tchaikovsky in performances that suffered some from overly brilliant acoustics. It seems that a leaking roof had necessitated rolling up the acoustically desirable carpet and, indeed, throughout the evening, bits of plaster and some dampness floated down over the audience, a situation that did not seem to detract from anyone's enjoyment.