Friday, June 18, 2010
Music review: Violist shines in Telemann at Stringendo concert
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.