Sun-Sentinel.com, FL
Oct 1 2005

Festival Miami takes on a Russian accent

By Alan Becker
Special Correspondent

Festival Miami continues to offer some enticing concerts at a time of
year when the cupboard seems bare. Wednesday's program, at the
University of Miami's Gusman Theater, presented Russian composers and
artists, with one exception in each case.

The justification for the presence of Aaron Copland on the program
was his Russian Jewish lineage and the presence of a Jewish folk
theme in his "Vitebsk" Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano.

An abrasive work with clashing sonorities dating from 1925, the Trio
showed violinist Sviatoslav Moroz and cellist Semyon Fridman at their
best. Each player had absorbed the idiom fully, bringing insight and
imagination to the music.

Performing in all the works with piano was University of Miami
faculty member Paul Posnak, who has the digital control and authority
to assert himself as an equal partner with any ensemble. During
Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake excerpts with Moroz, he undertook the role of
orchestra.

If the piano arrangement seemed awkward at times, the violinist did
his best with the mostly original solos.

Three of Gliere's engaging pieces for violin and cello easily
demonstrated what a creative composer could do with a string duo,
rather than relying on a keyboard to fill in the harmonies.

While only the slow movement from Rachmaninoff's beautiful Sonata for
Cello and Piano was performed, it provided a striking contrast to the
splashy emptiness of Rodion Shchedrin's take on Albeniz for Cello and
Piano.

Alexander Arutiunian's Impromptu is another matter altogether, and
provided a joyful and fiery alternative to the Armenian composer's
more frequently heard Trumpet Concerto. The language is almost pure
Khachaturian, and the composer weds this to an arresting rhythmic
exuberance. Fridman, with his luxuriant tone, milked the piece and
had a field day with Arutiunian's tricky rhythms.

Shostakovich's Op. 67 Trio has a vicious, sardonic intensity in its
two faster movements, and wears a doleful countenance for the
remainder of the work.

Considering that it dates from the war years and contains a portrayal
of the Jews being horribly forced to dance just before their
slaughter by Nazis, the composer avoids most of his depressive
tendencies. It was given a reading that, while not note-perfect,
conveyed the music's stature and feeling.

Alan Becker is a freelance writer in Davie.