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CHAMBER REVIEW

Dmitri Illarnionov and Boris Andrionov

VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018

Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers were mostly new to North Coast, and the program was mostly all arcane transcriptions. It was the final event in RAC’s 38th season.

Cellist Boris Andrionov has appeared at a previous RAC program in Occidental, with the virtuoso pianist Alexander Kobrin, and this evening joined guitarist Dmitri Illarionov for novel instrumental transcriptions. Transcriptions? Sure, and the selections were full of sonic variety, novel instrumental color and consummate virtuosity.

The duo played without score the entire evening and began with Bach’s C Minor Cello Suite, BWV 1011, using the two instruments solo in some of the six sections, or in a harmonious mix. The large church has a high ceiling and lots of carpeting and heavy oak pews, and thus minimal reverberation. But acoustics were excellent, as the sound is direct and clear. It was a fetching transcription highlighted by Mr. Andrionov’s non-legato arpeggios in the allemande. It was quickly clear that both player’s virtuosity and compositional wizardry would dominate the evening. These are sprightly dance movements with Mr. Illiaronov’s solo courante playing beguiling. Tempos were just right, judicious in the sarabande and slow and yearning in the two-parte gavotte.

Mr. Illarionov altered the program, playing Albéniz’ Granada instead of the announced Tarrega Carnaval of Venice Variations on a Paganini theme, but the substitution was welcome and splendidly performed. Guitar praise can go no higher. His two-finger legato supporting the single note theme was mesmerizing.

Falla’s Suite Popular Española was originally written for soprano and voice, and was transcribed by violinist Paul Kochanski for strings, and finally by the evening’s guitarist. There is much high register cello playing, and sounds of a Zarzuela dance and even a mimic of a soprano voice. Spanish rhythms abound and vibrato, mostly absent in the Bach, returned. A sensual work brilliantly performed.

Picking out highlights in a concert full of them is risky, but I might nominate the four Russian Romances that began the second half. Glinka and Boris Sheremetev were the only familiar composers, and the music was at turns melancholic in the “I Met You” (a captivating long decrescendo and crescendo by Mr. Andrionov), and a suave “salonstücke” dance in “The Gate” with cutesy pauses. Gaiety and sadness were constantly juxtaposed.

Four Moldavian Folk songs in transcription followed. The rhythms and “dervish” effects produced by both instruments were irresistible. The tarantella dance seemed to be played on top of the strings, and full of strange and rich color.

Two solos came next, Mr. Illarionov playing a non-Piazzolla “Tango en Skaï” (Roland Dyens) and Mr. Andrionov answered with an under six-minute scintillating performance of Giovanni Sollima’s cello showpiece “Lamentatio.” It was exciting and used instrument body slapping, long delicious slides, rapid bow and at one moment even the lament sound of the cellist’s own voice.

One might think that the audience of 150 would tire of many short works (23 at this time) and so much associated virtuosity, but that wasn’t the case, and two contrasting Piazzolla works concluded the recital: the slow and lovely “Tanti Anni Prima” and the pungent “La Muerte del Angel.” Both received the same sovereign instrumental command that characterized this sensational concert of unique string transcriptions.