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CHAMBER REVIEW

Cellist Edward Arron

A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019

Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions.

In a nearly flawless concert with pianist Jeewon Park Mendelssohn’s charming Op. 17 Variations were elegantly played with increasing energy and virtuosity in the first five variations. Ms. Park’s fluent sale passages combined with the cellist’s expressive rhythms in fine ensemble, with the sixth variation a sublime and exalted song of harmonic richness where Mr. Arron held a long mid-register A note over the theme in the piano part. An exquisite reading.

Equally fine playing continued with Falla’s Suite Popular Española, originally a series of six songs transcribed for a cello-piano duo in the early 1920s. A Spanish flair is heard throughout the 14-minute work, and Mr. Arron altered his sound from the Mendelssohn, adopting a drier tone and less intense vibrato. Highlights of the playing were “Nana” (No. 2) and “Asturiana” (No. 5), the first a captivating slow lament with the cello in the high register, the second wavering between major and minor in lovely contrast. In “Canción” the cellist deftly leaned into notes for effect, and repeated the short figurations with judicious care. There were hints in the music of Falla’s tuneful ballets.

Following the Falla Mr. Arron left the stage to Ms. Park and Chopin’s G Minor Ballade, Op. 23. The accepted performance approach to this work is orchestral sonority and bravado in the Slavic tradition (Hofmann’s titanic 1937 Met Opera House version) but on this afternoon in the small Berger Auditorium Ms. Park surprisingly adopted a restrained interpretation with slow tempos, extended fermatas and modest drama. I suspect this novel realization of Chopin’s unfolding musical story found approval in many of the audience of 150, but the poky tempos lacked momentum and power at points, including the right-hand octave passages at the return of the second theme (though they were clearly played) and the long single note and octave runs in both hands in the coda. Romantic traditions in repeats, octave doublings and inner voices were outside of the pianist’s interest.

Brahms’ F Major Op. 99 Sonata occupied the entire second half, and the Arron-Park duo gave it the muscular momentum the work demands. Some of Ms. Park’s best playing of the afternoon came in this piece, with admirable textural clarity in the opening allegro vivace, and Mr. Arron’s masterful bowing technique at times generating a rumbling sound, as he alternated bow pressure in phrases. Fine ensemble characterized the adagio with it’s heart-on-sleeve melody and tiny artful instrumental crescendos and decrescendos.

The scherzo received an energetic reading with seamless connections between the wildly contrasting sections, and wonderful soft playing. The finale had the requisite majesty of conception, and its overall sprightly nature was helped by Ms. Park using a seco touch at times. Mr. Arron’s playing here clothed the always-vigorous Brahmsian themes in a beguiling lyricism. Again, he commands a decisive package of virtuosity and imagination.

The performance drew a standing ovation and one encore, Schumann’s Stücke Im Volkston, Op. 102, No. 5. It was an enchanting lullaby, delicate and warmly played.

Listeners that love the great Brahms Sonata can hear it locally again Feb. 10, when Amit Peled plays both Brahms Sonatas at 3 p.m. in the Occidental Performing Arts Center in the Redwood Arts Council series.