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RECITAL REVIEW
Thursday Music Club / Thursday, April 15, 2010
Elenor Barcsak, Piano

Elenor Barcsak Receiving Applause April 15 in Marin

BARCSAK PLAYS A RARE CRAMER SONATA BEFORE ELEGANT CHOPIN MAZURKAS

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pianist Elenor Barcsak has consistently been in the forefront of Marin musical life as a teacher, MTA branch President, supporter of manifold causes and a chamber music player, but seldom finds time to mount a solo recital. April 15 found her accepting the soloist’s role in Terra Linda’s Christ Presbyterian Church, performing a recital of some unfamiliar music and some Chopin gems.

Sponsored by the Thursday Marin Musical Club, the concert’s first half featured unfamiliar music of Franck, Cramer and Donizetti. And music from J. B. Cramer, in this case the E-Flat sonata, Op. 30, No. 3, is also from a composer that is long forgotten. The music is effective without being memorable, lacking the rhythmic interest of similar works from Clementi and Dussek. The middle Allegretto non troppo movement, although short, was played with a joyful nature and deft cross-handed articulation.

The Cramer followed Harold Bauer’s transcription of Franck’s Prelude, Op. 18, originally one of six pieces for organ written in 1868, and the first part of a fugue and variations. It’s a shimmering if repetitive composition, nostalgic at every turn, and Ms. Barcsak never allowed the tempi to slack into sentimentality.

Donizetti’s famous “Sextette” from Lucia di Lammermoor concluded the first half, but not in the familiar virtuoso version by Liszt. Here it was just for the left hand, in a Leschetizky transcription, and was surely a premiere for North Bay audiences. It is effective, the contrapuntal lines vying with the well-known theme. However, though I kept yearning for the big sound of the Liszt work, it was good to hear this music from a fresh perspective.

Everything in the second half was eminently familiar, and mostly Chopin. Four Mazurkas (Op. 17, No. 2, Op. 7, No. 4, Op. 59, No. 2, and Op. 50, No. 3) were perhaps the most successfully played works of the afternoon, as Ms. Barcsak subtlely varied the repeats in the first Mazurka and found flourishes of chromatic harmony and a delicate change from major to minor in the Coda of the A-Flat Mazurka of Op. 59. The masterful C-Sharp Mazurka of Op. 50 was played with the contrapuntal opening and closing highlighted, and a captivating ending with a dose of suspense.

Two Etudes followed, the A-Flat Major from “Trois Nouvelles Études” a lovely journey of the left-hand accompaniment of two against three and Ms. Barcsak emphasizing the melody in the top note of the right-hand chords. In the demanding first study in C Major, Op. 10, No. 1, played without score as was the concluding Liszt work, Ms. Barcsak made the most of long lines with the damper pedal supporting a rich bass octave melody.

Tackling the formidable Liszt Second Legend, “St. Francis Walking on the Waves,” the pianist had the needed endurance for playing the broken left-hand octaves and mounted enough bravura to bring the packed church audience to its feet at the final ecstatic chords. Ms. Barcsak clearly has a penchant for Liszt and the performance was carefully planned and displayed the needed musical abandon during the long ascending phrases depicting the Saint’s triumph over earthly barriers.

Ms. Barcsak, Marin’s complete musician, mounted a recital replete with uncommon music and elegant artistry.