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Friends Make Music at the Linton Series

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Nov 6, 2006 - 12:00:00 AM in reviews_2006

   A new birth?
   Linton Chamber Music Series artistic director Richard Waller thinks he sees one in pianist Orli Shaham, violinist Alexander Kerr and cellist Eric Kim.
   The three, performing together for the first time Sunday afternoon at First Unitarian Church in Avondale, made a good case for Waller’s enthusiastic pronouncement.
   In remarks to the audience, Waller noted that the Linton Series has had other musical progeny: Opus One (violinist Ida Kavafian, violist Steven Tenenbom, cellist Peter Wiley and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, who return for Linton concerts in May). Also, the quintet V to One (violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Benny Kim, violist Evan Wilson, cellist Eric Kim and pianist McDermott).
   The concert was a reminder also that Linton’s motto, “Music Making Among Friends,” is an enduring one. Kerr, former concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (which he leaves this year to accept an endowed professorship at Indiana University School of Music), has returned to the Linton Series several times since leaving Cincinnati in 1996. He also serves on its artistic advisory board and is remembered fondly at Cincinnati City Hall as the heart-stirring fiddler who performed the theme from "Schindler's List" at a city council session.
   Kim, principal cellist of the CSO, is a regular Linton participant. Shaham (sister of violinist Gil Shaham) made a return visit to the series Sunday.
   Their program was an attractive one, from Beethoven to Brahms with Karol Szymanowski in between.
   Beethoven’s Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 1, No.1 (not the composer’s first work, just catalogued that way) made an exhilarating opener. Skittering passages in the first movement demonstrated why music students are exhorted to practice scales, while the lyrical Adagio was wreathed in ornamentation. The Scherzo featured a melodious Trio section, and the quick-as-a-wink finale was both nimble and charming.
   Polish composer Szymanowski’s Myths for Violin and Piano, Op. 30 (1915), are highly virtuosic, late romantic/impressionistic tone poems based on Greek mythology. “Fountains of Arethusa” concerns the quintessential nymph saved from the clutches of a lecherous god by miraculous intervention (here the goddess Artemis changes Arethusa into a fountain to escape the river god Alpheus). Kerr began from a precipitous height on the violin’s top string over Shaham’s roiling, churning figures, clearly a picture of a damsel in distress. “Narcissus,” the youth who pines to death over his image in a stream, began boldly and affirmatively, grew rapturous (shades of Scriabin), then weary and sad.
   Tour de force was “Pan and the Dryads,” with its dense horizontal and vertical textures, and packed menu of violinistic effects. Kerr negotiated extreme heights, fingered harmonics (some with vibrato), rapid string crossings, fiendish double stops and as the closing coup de grace, a quick swipe of left hand pizzicato.
   Brahms’ Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8, is Brahms at his most affecting. The trio played it to the hilt, uniting warm, plush tone with ardent delivery. Shaham’s wide-spaced chords at the beginning of the Adagio offered a meditative moment, while the three played with passion and gusto in the finale.
   The concert repeats at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Congregation Ohav Shalom, 8100 Cornell Rd. in Montgomery. Tickets are $30, $10 for students at (513) 381-6868 or visit www.lintonmusic.org.
(first published in The Cincinnati Post Nov. 6, 2006)