Chalk it up to summer doldrums or last-minute vacations, but violinist Elisabeth Adkins and pianist Edward Newman played to a less-than-half-filled Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville Friday night. The few who did attend were treated to a first-class recital of favorites by Igor Stravinsky, Manuel de Falla and Cesar Franck, plus a delightful rarity by Miklos Rozsa. Rozsa is known for scoring movies ("Spellbound," "Ben-Hur"), but his Duo for Violin and Piano proves he was a serious composer of concert music. He spent his youthful summers in the Matra Mountains north of Budapest, soaking up folk tunes. A few might have seeped into the Duo, but Rosza claims that all of the stamping dance rhythms and rustic coloring that Adkins and Newman brought out so vividly sprang entirely from his own head. The slow and gorgeously played third movement sounded like Brahms dropped in on a Hungarian funeral.
The chestnuts on the program included a controlled performance of Stravinsky's "Suite Italienne" and de Falla's "Suite Populaire Espagnole."
Adkins told the audience that the meaning behind de Falla's music boils down to "men are pigs." But that's vastly oversimplifying it. The six short tunes are about passion, grief and solitude, and Adkins's playing bore all of that out. Even the hushed lullaby smoldered with tension.
Franck's ultra-romantic Violin Sonata was the evening's warhorse. Adkins and Newman expressed passion, elegantly restrained. They highlighted many attractive details others tend to bulldoze through. The lovely theme in the third movement -- hushed over rolling piano chords -- was one of many special moments in a concert that many more people should have heard.
-- Tom Huizenga