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Music Reviews : Fridman Opens Gold Medal Series at Ambassador

Seriousness can be one of the most admirable of virtues. But unless leavened by a discrete sprinkling of levity it can become one of the deadly sins.

It happened that way at the cello recital of Semyon Fridman, opening the Gold Medal series at Ambassador Auditorium on Monday night. Not until Fridman arrived at the last item on his program, Popper’s Tarantella, Opus 33, was there the slightest suggestion of sparkle or humor.

But when the cellist released his restraints and inhibitions he demonstrated command of a plentiful supply of fluent technique and a certain amount of graceful phrasing.

The earlier part of the program was dedicated to music solemn and lugubrious. He discovered little sentiment in three of Schumann’s “Phantasiestucke,” Opus 73, and he dug earnestly into Shostakovich’s Sonata in D minor and Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G minor.

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Neither of the latter works were specifically designed to display the most grateful characteristics of the cello. In fact they often seemed to seek out its most unaffecting, unappealing aspects and most awkward properties.

Both works tend to distribute the most graceful exercise to the piano which in all cases was ably negotiated by Doris Stevenson.

Fridman faced up to the hazards intelligently and resourcefully. He did not exactly slight their musical values but he never seemed deeply concerned with making any decisive sort of musical statement. It was plain, well-controlled, honest and clearly thought out, but shy and inexpressive communication.

Messiaen’s brief “Lounage a l’eternite de Jesus” completed the program.

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