Chamber Music Reviews : Passionate Recital by Krosnick-Kalish Duo

Overstatement is one of the dangers risked by passionate performers--thank goodness. There are worse things than caring enough to raise one's voice.

Cellist Joel Krosnick and pianist Gilbert Kalish risked a lot in their nearly riotous recital at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute Wednesday night. Local chamber music lovers had a number of promising options on this evening; those who chose the USC facility had reason to be grateful.

Was this performance--of music by Debussy, Perry Goldstein, Ralph Shapey and Beethoven-- too loud for the confines of the Institute's chamber-size concert room?

For sure.

Was it wonderful?

Absolutely.

Without falling into the traps of adoring Goldstein's new "Lost Chants and Last Licks" (in its world premiere) or overpraising Shapey's 6-year-old "Kroslish" Sonata, one can express admiration for the skills of both American composers, their industry in providing interesting materials for Krosnick-Kalish and the intelligent and articulate readings the duo achieved, before a sizable and enthusiastic Institute audience.

Goldstein's 20-minute, jazz-influenced, abstract work demands intensity, concentration and a measure of violence from its players; these the close-knit duo provided. But the piece offers little contrast in its sometimes sprawling length, and grew tedious before it finally ended.

It would be pleasant to be able to like Shapey's 1985 Sonata, which was written, as the title indicates, for this distinguished partnership of the cellist of the Juilliard Quartet and the deservedly admired Kalish. For those of us who do not know the composer, however, it can be hard going.

The outside "Maestoso" sections move, not in an ongoing flurry of 16th- or eighth-notes, but in more stately and ponderous quarter-notes, and seem to do so forever. The central "Delicato (as slow as possible)" offers some contrast of mood, but no lightening of textures. Atonal to a fault, it all sounds contrived and uninspired, despite the impassioned ministrations of the players.

Debussy's 1915 Sonata and Beethoven's G-minor Sonata, Opus 5, No. 2, framed the program in tight, faceted and full-blooded readings replete with stylish details and new insights, making this event one of those rare occasions when the listener feels his ears and musical sensibilities have been stretched. Let's hear it for loudness.

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