AARON ROSAND PLAYS BEETHOVEN:  A MUSICAL TREASURE

By Lawrence Budmen

Few composers changed music like Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). His clashing harmonies, dissonances, elongated sense of formal structure, and other worldly musical sublimity would influence every composer that succeeded him. Even Arnold Schoenberg (who viewed Bach, Brahms, and Mahler as his artistic heroes) could not have written his revolutionary scores ("Verklarte Nacht," "Erwartung," "Gurrelieder") without the influence of Beethoven's path breaking late string quartets (with their clashing dissonances and unsettling harmonies) -works that will always sound "contemporary" and remain timeless. With the "Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano," Opus 47 ("Kreutzer") in1803, Beethoven effectively moved the instrumental sonata from the perfumed elegance of the salon to the modernity of the concert hall. Because of its symphonic scope and instrumental grandeur Beethoven referred to the "Kreutzer" as a "Concerto-Sonata." With his new vision of the sonata as a public concert vehicle, Beethoven tested the limits of instrumental technique. The consummate violinist Aaron Rosand gave a thrilling performance of this monumental score on October 24 at UM Gusman Concert Hall in Coral Gables- the centerpiece of the opening concert of the 24th season of Sunday Afternoons of Music. 

Aaron Rosand is one of the few living exponents of the 19th century Russian violinistic tradition. Rosand studied with Efrem Zimbalist, Sr. at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Zimbalist's teacher had been Leopold Auer (himself one of the founders of Curtis) who had given the premiere of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. Rosand embodies all the virtues of the Russian school of violin playing: a richly burnished tone, suavely elegant rubato, and a searching musical intellect that revitalizes familiar music and makes rarely heard scores into exciting discoveries. After six decades on the world's concert stages, Rosand's artistry and technical brilliance remain undiminished. A Rosand performance is a true musical event! 

Indeed Beethoven's revolutionary sonata became a metaphor for Rosand's incredible ability to make the listener hear new elements in every score he plays. In the "Kreutzer," Rosand brought finely chiseled classical breadth to the music without shortchanging the score's bold dissonances and harmonic leaps. The opening chords of the Adagio Sostenuto were finely poised and imbued with spacious eloquence. Rosand's rapid fire articulation of the Presto made the listener believe in the impossible. At a fierce tempo, Rosand placed every note and chord perfectly. And what elegance and honeyed tonal sheen Rosand brought to the contrasting second subject - the very essence of aristocratic string playing! The imaginative, strongly musical character that Rosand brought to each of the variations in the Andante con Variazioni were the work of a "thinking man's musician." The sheer vigor and joyous Úlan in the Finale Presto were exhilarating. Rosand's formal rigor, deeply probing intellect, and glorious tone produced a great Beethoven performance! This was a "Kreutzer" of which legends are made! 

Rosand's soaring tone and elasticity of phrase made Mozart's beautiful "Adagio," K.261 (an alternative slow movement for the composer's 5th Violin Concerto - the "Turkish') a celestial, glowing melodic gem. The rousing vivacity and classical finesse that Rosand imparted to the "Rondo," K.373 (like the Adagio, composed for the Italian virtuoso Antonio Brunetti) had an otherworldly glow. Beautiful playing of rare classical style and elegance! In the Beethoven and Mozart his pianistic partner Robert Koenig brought patrician musicianship and sparkle to every bar of these great works. Koenig has that uncanny ability to phrase and breathe as one with Rosand's every musical nuance. With a stellar technique and a true collaborative pulse, Koenig is the perfect chamber music artist! 

The entire concert was dedicated to the memory of the late Miami Herald music critic James Roos. Rosand opened the program with Johann Sebastian Bach's "Adagio in G Minor" (for unaccompanied violin) - a truly spiritual experience. Rosand's soaring arc of sound and pristine, classical phrasing made the celestial beauty of this heavenly music soar. His dedication of this Bach performance to Roos's memory was wonderfully appropriate. A beautiful performance of divinely inspired music! 

Rosand has long been a master of the French violin repertoire. Ernest Chausson (1855-1899) was a short lived genius. His "Poeme," Opus 25 is the essence of Cesar Franck inspired, quasi-Wagnerian Romanticism with a distinctly Gallic touch. Rosand's glorious lava dipped tone and gorgeous musical line were the sine qua non of idiomatic French style! His passionately felt, burning intensity set Chausson's music ablaze. Rosand's ability to sustain an elongated, curving trill with marvelous beauty is the mark of an artist who is beyond mere technique. Koenig's intense pianism was all blazing ardor.

Rosand has long been the master of the musical vignette. From the rich toned, commanding opening recitative to the Gypsy fiddle bravura of the finale, Pablo de Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen" ("Gypsy Airs"), Opus 20 burned with Magyar fire. Rosand added a few additional pyrotechnical flourishes to add to the Spanish-Slavic brew - super fireworks indeed! Fritz Kreisler's version of the second movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No.2 "Preghiera" was a Viennesse take on Russian melancholia - played with schmaltzy warmth and sweetly glowing tone. Rosand's charming, sentimental rendition of Tchaikovsky's salon favorite "Valse Sentimental" (arranged by Jacques Press) was a joy to hear. There was Slavic vigor in Moussorgsky's "Hopak" (a favorite of the late Russian violinist Nathan Milstein). The brilliance and dare devil virtuosity of Rosand's version of the March from "The Love for Three Oranges" by Prokofieff (a Jascha Heifetz staple) was dazzling! As an encore Rosand offered "Meditation by Alexander Glazunov, a beautiful, melancholy Russian romance played with honeyed tone and Imperial breadth of phrase - pure violinistic cream!

Aaron Rosand is a musical treasure! Not since the late Russian violinist Misha Elman has an artist offered such a unique, strongly individual violinistic style. Rosand's tone is gorgeously sonorous and distinctive. His musicianship is awesome - a great artist in a magnificent recital! Bravo!


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