Cellist Lynn Harrell & Pianist Jon Kimura Parker in Recital

Lynn Harrell and Jon Kimura Parker

The Carmel Music Society launched its 2012-2013 season yesterday afternoon at Sunset Center with a return engagement by two artists, cellist Lynn Harrell and pianist Jon Kimura Parker, who have charmed and uplifted us on previous occasions. That such fine artists did not attract a larger audience (the hall was approximately half full) is unfortunate.

However, those who were not there yesterday afternoon missed a glorious performance of the Brahms Sonata for Cello & Piano in E Minor, Op. 38. Both artists were at the top of their form and delivered a performance that was intellectually engaging and emotionally involving. The large-scaled first movement at the heart of this Sonata never fails to reach out to listeners, grab them by the throat and keep them enthralled for fifteen minutes. Robert Schumann in his prophetic article Neue Bahnen (“New Paths”) referred to Brahms’s ensemble compositions as “veiled symphonies,” and certainly the grandeur (and length) of this first movement suggest that Schumann had a valid point. After the lovely second movement full of charm and grace, the fiery concluding movement was heard in an impassioned performance that brought the audience to its feet.

Pianist Parker, as in his previous appearance with Harrell, performed two works for piano solo. He opened the program with a violently aggressive performance of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 3 in A Minor — perhaps the angriest performance of this work I have ever heard. However, he respected the lyrical moments as well and managed to project a performance that was ultimately authoritative and convincing. He also performed Rachmaninoff’s second most popular solo piano work, the Prelude in G Minor, Op. 23, No. 5. Parker emphasized the virtuoso elements of this work, and although rarely playing below forte, he achieved some beautiful subtlety in the middle section and gave us a terrific windup at the end. As in the Prokofiev, he gave us a masterful performance that found great favor with the audience.

We even had a bit of fun on this otherwise serious program as we heard two arias arranged by Lynn Harrell for cello and piano. The first of these, based on the aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja,” was a semi-staged takeoff on Papageno with Harrell giving us some amusing bird imitations and singing a bit of the aria as well. Off stage we kept hearing the sounds of a pan flute as though Papageno were actually in the wings. Finally out from behind the wings to join the musicians onstage came the Carmel Music Society’s Executive Director, Peter Tuff with the pan flute in hand to add in a bit of Papageno’s aria and demonstrate his powerful and very beautiful voice.

The remainder of the program included Harrell’s solo performance of Two Sarabandes from the Fifth and Sixth Suites for Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach, and duo performances with Parker of Beethoven’s Twelve Variations on Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” plus Beethoven’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, No. 4 in C Major, Op. 102, No. 1.

An appreciative audience gave the musicians a standing ovation and were rewarded with one lovely encore – an arrangement for cello and piano of Schubert’s famous song  “An die Musik” which expresses the sentiment: “Oh lovely Art, in how many grey hours, when life’s fierce orbit ensnared me, have you kindled my heart to warm love and carried me away into a better world!”

What a very nice way to end a concert!

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