By Libby Motika
Palisades News Contributor
It was an inspired choice for Chamber Music Palisades to highlight the “Andante” from Rachmaninoff ’s Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 19, on March 14, as a loving memory of world-renowned violinist Ida Levin, who passed away in November at 53.
In this natural and instinctively beautiful performance, the “Andante” was transcribed for violin and piano, instead of cello, featuring Stephanie Chase and pianist Delores Stevens (CMP’s co-director). Chase had performed with Levin at the Marlboro Music Festival. She is recognized as “one of the violin greats of our era” through solo appearances with more than 170 orchestras that include the New York, Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and London Symphony.
One reviewer said of the piece, “not overly romantic, but searching, longing and truly enigmatic, the ‘Andante’ takes your mind, spirit and soul on a journey you cannot ever forget.”
Levin was a longtime friend and CMP soloist, who especially championed chamber music, performing with ensembles throughout the United States and Europe.
Pianist and writer Susan Tomes, with whom Levin played at the International Musicians’ Seminars in Prussia Cove, Cornwall, remembers her as “funny, feisty and with great charisma. Her character was perfectly expressed in her playing: strong, warm, intelligent and well informed.”
The CMP program also included Bohuslav Martinu ̊ ’sMadrigal-Sonata for Flute, featuring co-director Susan Greenberg, violin and piano.
After immigrating to America in 1941 from his native Bohemia, Martinu ̊ wrote two pieces of chamber music, as a relaxing break between his first symphony and a concerto for two pianos.
Its three short movements (the second and third are interlinked) strike a light and graceful mood; the music does not attempt to plumb great depths of expression. A continually repeated musical phrase is a feature of the first movement, and the slow introduction to the second makes much use of trills. Completed in 1942, it was first performed in New York on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the American League of Composers.
The first half of the CMP program concluded with Samuel Barber’s Sonata, Op. 6 for cello and piano, featuring Ronald Leonard, who was principal cellist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for two decades and continues to concertize and teach at the Colburn School.
Although Barber was only 22 when he composed the Cello Sonata, he was far from a novice.
The sonata opens with a questioning theme that contrasts well with the passionate piano writing. The opening piano solo, performed by Delores Stevens, focuses the listener’s attention on the equality of the two instruments.
It was dedicated to Barber’s Curtis Institute professor Rosario Scalero and continues to hold a notable place in cello repertoire today.
After intermission, CMP presented Schubert’s Trio No. 2 in E flat major, op. 100 for violin, cello and piano.
It is one of the last compositions Schubert wrote before his death in 1828.
Comprising four movements, the trio is comparatively longer than most piano trios of the time, taking almost 50 minutes to perform.
The main theme of the second movement was used as one of the central musical themes in Stanley Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon, as well as Tony Scott’s The Crimson Tide, and a number of television programs, including HBO’s John Adams.
Chamber Music Palisades, co-founded by Susan Greenberg and Delores Stevens, continues to be a valuable cultural treasure, not only presenting stellar virtuosi, but also a broad spectrum of chamber works. Tuesday night’s program offered some of the most peaceful and sublime music written for chamber ensembles.
The final concert of CMP’s 20th anniversary season is set for April 25, featuring the world premiere of Laura Karpman’s Trio for flute, cello and piano.
For information, visit cmpalisades.org.