Friday, June 18, 2010

Music review: Violist shines in Telemann at Stringendo concert

Violist Stanley Konopka.


By Greg Stepanich

A violist for the Cleveland Orchestra made a persuasive case for the power and versatility of his instrument Tuesday night during a performance of a Telemann concerto at Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Stanley Konopka,‭ ‬who has been assistant principal viola of the Cleveland since‭ ‬1993,‭ ‬was one of two members of that orchestra featured in Tuesday‭’‬s concert,‭ ‬the second program of four with faculty members of PBAU‭’‬s Stringendo School for Strings‭ ‬summer‭ ‬music camp.‭ ‬Konopka played the German Baroque master‭’‬s concerto in G major‭ (‬TWV‭ ‬51:‭ ‬G9‭) ‬with an‭ ‬11-piece string ensemble as the final work on the concert at Persson Hall.

Konopka has a big,‭ ‬beautiful sound,‭ ‬and he plays with force and verve,‭ ‬which might be one of the reasons his viola speaks so well.‭ ‬His‭ ‬digital‭ ‬technique is impressive,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬with the fiddle-style patterns of the second movement clean and right in tune,‭ ‬and the rushing scales of the finale‭ ‬properly joyful and athletic.‭

The familiar third movement showed off the loveliness of Konopka‭’‬s tone,‭ ‬and the Stringendo faculty string players accompanied with a gratifyingly full sound that avoided the overly restrained approach you sometimes hear in performances of Baroque music.

The concert opened with another Cleveland player,‭ ‬cellist Alan Harrell,‭ ‬in the early‭ ‬Introduction and Polonaise Brillante,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬3,‭ ‬of Frédéric Chopin.‭ ‬Most of the Polish composer‭’‬s music was for piano,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬but through his friendship with‭ ‬French‭ ‬cellist Auguste Franchomme,‭ ‬he wrote a handful of cello and chamber works,‭ ‬including a fine Piano Trio and the great but neglected Cello Sonata at the end of his composing career.

Harrell,‭ ‬accompanied by pianist Liera Antropova,‭ ‬brought a large,‭ ‬intense tonal quality to the playing of this flashy showpiece,‭ ‬even‭ ‬giving the pizzicato accompaniments under the pianist‭’‬s statement of the main theme a noticeable flourish.‭ ‬Harrell has plenty‭ ‬of technique and interpretive panache,‭ ‬and that came across well,‭ ‬but in the trickiest higher passages,‭ ‬his footing was less sure.

Antropova played the virtuosic piano part ably and accurately,‭ ‬if not with a great deal of sparkle.‭ ‬Both musicians gave the Chopin a strong performance,‭ ‬though I‭’‬m guessing it was probably a rehearsal or two away from the thoroughly polished reading it might have received.

The other piece on the program was one on of the chamber music masterpieces of the‭ ‬20th century,‭ ‬Dmitri Shostakovich‭’‬s Piano Quintet in G minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬57.‭ ‬Antropova,‭ ‬Harrell and Konopka were joined by violinists David Mastrangelo and Renata Guitart for‭ ‬this work,‭ ‬which‭ ‬has all the dark lyricism,‭ ‬bumptiousness and dramatic punch of Shostakovich‭’‬s best music.

At their best,‭ ‬the four string players‭ ‬blended lusciously in the slower pages,‭ ‬and in the rough-and-tumble scherzo they gave their repeated,‭ ‬hammered chords plenty of firepower.‭ ‬In the fourth-movement Intermezzo,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬which is in large part a violin solo,‭ ‬first violinist Mastrangelo had some intonation trouble in the final moments,‭ ‬which took away from the sorrowful effect of the movement overall.

Still,‭ ‬the five musicians had a good handle on the quintet‭’‬s many moods,‭ ‬and judging by their smiles,‭ ‬seemed to particularly enjoy the fifth and final movement,‭ ‬which fades away in a serene,‭ ‬major-key,‭ ‬almost offhand manner before expiring in a‭ ‬plucked-string whisper.‭ ‬If it was an unremarkable rendition of the quintet,‭ ‬it was nonetheless solid,‭ ‬and the players managed to get Shostakovich‭’‬s message across capably and effectively.‭

The Stringendo chamber music series continues with another faculty concert at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tuesday at Persson Hall on the PBAU campus.‭ ‬Members of the Atlanta Symphony will be on hand for music by Paganini‭ (‬a viola arrangement of the Rondo from his Concerto No.‭ ‬2‭)‬,‭ ‬Prokofiev‭ (‬the‭ ‬Sonata for Two Violins‭) ‬and Brahms‭ (‬his String Sextet No.‭ ‬1‭ ‬in B-flat,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬18‭)‬.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$15.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬803-2970‭ ‬for more information or visit www.pba.edu.

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