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Music and Dance Reviews : Ozolins, Lielmane: Latvian Virtuosos in Joint Concert

Two expatriate Latvian musicians, violinist Rasma Lielmane and pianist Arthur Ozolins, offered a break from the prevailing choral/vocal mode at the 11th West Coast Latvian Song Festival Saturday night.

In Terrace Theater at the Long Beach Convention Center, the two soloists--Lielmane now a resident of Mexico, Ozolins of Canada--displayed their splendid accomplishments in a program of music mostly by Latvian composers.

It was not, however, the promised evening of chamber music in this six-day songfest. Lielmane and Ozolins are virtuosos, first and foremost. As a team, they work together nicely, though in the manner of two speeding trains on adjacent tracks. A duo they are not, each being too much an individual to blend in selfless surrender to the chamber muse.

Brisk efficiency and handsome detailing marked their teamwork in Prokofiev’s Opus 94 Sonata, a piece they treated with a certain brusqueness and thorough affection. Indeed, they seemed to find more nuances in its emotional life than do some of their more famous international colleagues. Utter clarity of statement and the sweep of strong feelings--even with some deliberate tempos--marked this cherishable performance.

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An awesome display of violinistic fireworks--Lielmane was trained in Moscow under David Oistrakh in the 1960s--opened the program in old-fashioned test-pieces by J. Vitols and H. Pavasars wherein Ozolins assisted wholeheartedly. Gundaris Pone’s “Di Grand Maniera,” for unaccompanied violin, proved abrasive on all fronts; Lielmane disposed of its complexities without strain.

Living up to his reputation as Canada’s leading virtuoso pianist, Ozolins closed the pre-intermission portion of the evening with a dazzling display of pyrotechnics in pieces by Alfreds Kalnins, Janis Medins and Pauls Dambis, charming, if second-rate, works in the Rachmaninoff/Medtner mold which nevertheless fully exposed Ozolins’ strong, fleet and articulate fingers, his potent dynamic range and his unflagging musical integrity.

Ozolins, who visited here as soloist with the Vancouver Symphony 11 years ago, has a loyal and discerning Southern California following. Why haven’t we heard him at UCLA or Ambassador Auditorium?


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