Cellist Amit Peled can be forgiven for his unabashedly romantic reading of the Sonata for Cello and Piano by Bach's English contemporary, Henry Eccles, at a recital sponsored by the Washington Performing Arts Society at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Sunday. So warm and ripe was his tone, it was hard to carp about this baroque score sounding as if it had been written a hundred years later.
Schumann's "Fantasiestucke," Op. 73, suited him even better, playing to his predilection for big, juicy sonorities and extroverted expression. Beethoven's Cello Sonata in A, Op. 69, brought a similar approach - affectionate in phrasing but generally hale and hearty in mood. (Pianist Eli Kalman - who did distinguished work all afternoon - was at his most musically perceptive in the Beethoven, making one curious to hear him in some of the composer's piano sonatas.)
Peled showed a more introspective side to his playing in the quieter pages of these scores, as well as in the melancholic slow movements of Britten's Third Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, effectively capturing the Shostakovich-like chill in much of the work's Russian folk-song-based writing. He also knocked off the considerable technical challenges in the Britten work, as well as in the vividly coloristic Five Pieces on Folk Themes by Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze.
As a surprising encore, WPAS's president and chief executive, Neale Perl (himself a former professional cellist), joined Peled for Handel's four-movement Sonata for Two Cellos. If Perl's phrasing was more cautious than Peled's, his mellow, neatly turned, generally well-tuned playing held its own against that of his more ebullient partner.
Banno is a freelance writer.