Tonight's concert at Washington Irving High School was supposed to present violinist Daniel Hope and pianist Wu Han in an evening of sonatas, but Wu Han suffered an accident this week, announced PSC Manager Frank Salomon from the stage, and the young (age 24) Roman Rabinovich, whom she had recommended, had agreed at just a few days notice to step in. So we had a little instant drama: How would the young pianist handle this challenging assignment, Sonatas for Violin and Piano by Janacek, Brahms (No. 2), and Franck, plus a piano solo of his selection?
All turned out just fine, and even more so, because Rabinovich was a solid hit with the audience. One could not tell from his performance that this concert was prepared on a few days notice. Now, it is possible that he regularly collaborates with violinists and thus has these sonatas in his active repertory, which would be an interesting coincidence, but it is just as likely that these are not pieces he had worked up to concert pitch prior to this week. I thought his performances absolutely stunning, especially considering that the Janacek is not child's play, and the Brahms and Franck lean heavily on the pianist to carry a large share of the work in music that is quite challenging.
And to top it off, he selected for his solo the "Three Movements from Petrouchka" that Stravinsky had arranged for Artur Rubinstein, who famously found the piece too difficult to play. And he played it flawlessly, as he played everything else on the program.
Perhaps it is a bit forgivable in the circumstances to highlight Mr. Rabinovich's work tonight, but I don't want to denigrate Daniel Hope, a wonderful musician whose work tonight was also first-rate, particularly in the Franck, which impressed me as a thoughtful performance that took this old warhorse and made something new and fresh out of it. One would not know that these two musicians – a mid-career concert veteran and a young tyro – had only a few days to settle this program in their minds and fingers, for it all sounded seamless to me.
A triumph for Peoples' Symphony. Oh, and the encore – a transcription of Mendelssohn's "On Wings of Song," made a delectable nightcap. Bravo!