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Urioste-Brown Duo / Thursday, April 9, 2015
Elena Urioste, violin; Michael Brown, piano

E. Urioste and M. Brown April 9 in Berger Auditorium

ANGLO BRITISH MUSIC AT OAKMONT VIOLIN RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 9, 2015

In a balanced Music at Oakmont recital April 9 violinist Elena Urioste played an animated program featuring British and American composers, but with some compositional surprises.

The first came with Paul Schoenfield’s Four Souvenirs, a suite of four pieces that combined several dance forms that were at turns lighthearted and intricate, especially in the contrary motion lines of the complex final Square dance. This was snazzy music reminiscent of the composer’s popular “Café Music” and Ms. Urioste played them well, albeit with a thin tone and being covered in the Tin Pan Alley by her pianist Michael Brown.

Elgar’s Sonata in E Minor, Op. 82, concluded the first half in a performance that was well played but ultimately lacked the sweet Edwardian nostalgia under the surface of the piece. Playing from score as she did all afternoon, Ms. Urioste took a quick tempo in the opening Allegro. In remarks preceding the playing the violinist spoke to the audience of the second–movement Romance, and she played it lovingly with carefully-graded short rests and elegant scales. She caught the subtle mysticism of this section where there are elements of contemporary sonatas by Faure and Respighi.

The closing Allegro had her best playing as she dug deeper with increased tonal richness and just the right vibrato and thematic interplay with Mr. Brown. A wistful theme before the development was deftly played and introduced the Sonata’s short and strenuous coda.

The afternoon’s highlight came just after intermission – the Britten Suite, Op. 6. This is youthful Britten from 1934, far removed from the expansive music of “Peter Grimes” and the church parables initiated by “Curlew River.” In five contrasting parts the violinist moves from introductory snippets to Prokofiev-like high-register notes in the March and furious bowing in the Moto Perpetuo. This was virtuosic playing from the duo, even when in the Lullaby the violin sound emerged from a ppp level to a shimmering lament with subtle portamento and Mr. Brown’s part quietly lodged in the treble.

The final Waltz was played with rhythmic syncopation and pointillist fragments, Ms. Urioste underlining the effects of harmonic seconds, quick turns and histrionic disparities.

Mr. Brown’s own work, “Echoes of Byzantium,” followed and was an idiomatic 12-minute piece that had effective bursts of sound and alternating violin and piano chords. There was again much high-register writing and a bit of Vaughan-Williams’ “The Lark Ascending” with a long single-note fermata at the end that faded into obscurity. Mr. Brown’s playing captured in the 2006 tonal work’s piquant sonorities with liberal damper pedal and sure-footed technique.

Three Heifetz arrangements of popular Gershwin tunes closed the concert in high style, all from the opera “Porgy and Bess.” These are consummate transcriptions for the violin, loaded with double stops and nonchalant humor that captured the insouciance of Gershwin’s melodies. The best were “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” and particularly “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”

The Urioste-Brown duo played each with easy panache, to the delight of the 175 in the Berger Auditorium audience, but offered no encore.