This afternoon Peoples’ Symphony Concerts presented a recital by Hungarian-born musicians, Kristof Barati (violinist) and Klara Wurtz (pianist), at New York’s Town Hall. They presented a conservative program that could have been presented more than a century ago without raising an eyebrow: Beethoven’s Sonatas Nos. 4 & 9, Op. 23 and Op. 47 (the “Kreutzer Sonata”), and Brahms’ Sonata No. 1, Op. 78. These are all masterpieces and I have no objection to their presentation, but I think they would have done well to include at least one more recent piece on the program. Setting that aside, however, this was a magnificent recital.
Mr. Barati is, despite his relative youth, a mature artist who impresses not only with his fine technique in the challenging fast passages but also by the great artistry with which he plays the more lyrical passages. I thought that in each sonata the slow sections were the most impressive, and especially in the Brahms. (Their encore brought this home even more, as they played the adagio from Brahms’ 3rd Violin Sonata.) His career so far has evidently been mainly in Europe, but it is time he had more exposure in the United States. American orchestras should be paying attention.
Ms. Wurtz has had more U.S. exposure, but is still not quite a familiar name here. She had some momentary struggles, especially in the first movement of the Kreutzer sonata, when Beethoven crams in so many notes that it is not surprising that a few may get smudged or dropped along the way, but generally she held up her side well and was quite impressive. She has recorded a wide swathe of the piano standard reportory for the budget Brilliant Classics label (based in the Netherlands but widely available in the US), and she has joined with Barati in recording a set of the Beethoven sonatas that has been well-reviewed but which I haven’t heard.
After hearing the two of them today, that recording is on my list!
This concert was another triumph for Peoples’ Symphony from an artistic viewpoint, but surprisingly the attendance seemed a bit light. This is particularly surprising when the series is almost entirely sold out on subscription. The problem may be that the tickets are so reasonably priced that people subscribe to be sure of getting the big names on the series (in this case, Radu Lupu on January 12) and don’t mind missing a few. Actually, to my taste the best concerts coming up are likely some being presented at Washington Irving High School on Saturday nights: Alexander Tharaud on March 1, Jeremy Denk on April 12, and some excellent chamber groups: East Coast Chamber Orchestra, Juilliard Quartet, and Ying Quartet. All the Peoples’ Symphony series are bargain-priced and worth the effort to acquire. I’m rarely disappointed by any of the artists that Frank Salomon selects.