Review by Barry Plaxen
SHANDELEE, NY (August 18, 2015) – The Shandelee Music Festival opened its 22nd Season with a concert by the Hermitage Trio on August 13, 2015, returning exactly one year after their spectacular August 2014 inaugural appearance at Shandelee.
Interestingly, Beethoven’s “Trio in B-Flat, Opus 11” is one of a series of early works written “mostly” for woodwinds because of their popularity and novelty at the time. This trio is scored for piano, clarinet or violin and cello or bassoon. A somewhat simple and melodic work, it was a light forerunner of another light piece, Sibelius’ “Trio # 1.”
The Sibelius work, also an early composition, was of somewhat more interest than Beethoven’s, as it contained indications of Sibelius’ romantic, innovative harmonies and rhythms, while Beethoven’s classical work held no surprises. And, though I could be incorrect, the three returning heroes (understandably) seemed to enjoy performing the Sibelius work more-so than Beethoven’s.
After the intermission, the trio seemed to turn into a duet, with Schubert’s melodic masterpiece “Notturno in E-Flat” played by one two-hand performer, IIya Kazantsev on piano, and another set of two (left) hands, Misha Keylin on violin and Sergey Antonov on cello playing, almost continually, the same lines just a third or so apart. The sublime work and the oneness of Keylin and Antonov’s “duetting” made it the highlight of the evening for me.
But for everyone else, I would say the highlight was Brahms’ “Trio # 3 in c minor, Op. 101.” Happily, pianist Kazantsev was able to shine with this work, as it was much more interesting pianistically than the others, and it “fore-runs” a Rachmaninoff-ish kind of power and virtuosity for the piano. The work was full of passionate expression for cellist Antonov to outshine his earlier profoundly moving playing. Antonov and Keylin were superb in the second movement, again “duetting,” in a sense, for Brahms’ delicate, thoughtful and powerful music.
Their encore, the last movement from Haydn’s “Gypsy” Trio, with its smashing czardas-ian dance rhythms, happily ended another great concert in the Sunset Pavilion on the Mountain.
Then, two days later on August 15, 2015, the audience was introduced to the world of Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner, a world of magic, wonderment and (for me) adoration.
The young pianist, who has an incredible bio with a host of remarkable youthful achievements, immediately caught my attention as he began playing Bach’s difficult “Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue.” I have never heard it played as he did. With his great command of the instrument, the baroque music sounded like Rachmaninoff. I wondered what Bach would have thought hearing it on a piano instead of a harpsichord or clavichord, as Sanchez-Werner filled the work with an incredible plethora of dynamics that only the piano can offer us. His magical hands caressing the piano as they ran from bottom to top to bottom, bringing out elements in the work I never heard before, was the highlight of the evening for me.
Sanchez-Werner continued the program with other very difficult works that truly show off the capability of the instrument, works by composers who, after Bach, innovatively raised keyboard playing to where it hovers today.
Next was Ravel’s amazing “Albarada del Gracioso,” a “technically challenging piece that incorporates Spanish musical themes into its complicated melodies,” aptly said the program notes. And how!
Then came what is arguably Beethoven’s “oddest” piano sonata, “Sonata No. 31 in A-Flat, Op.110.” Odd in that the then-modern work seems to be in one movement (it is not) and in its, like Bach and then Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninoff, elevating piano music to new heights.
Our conquering hero followed Beethoven with much more difficult and unique works, Chopin’s not-so-well-known and complex “Polonaise-Fantasie in A-flat Major, Op. 61,” which “anticipates the future breakdown of tonality,” and Rachmaninoff’s “Moment-Musicaux in B-flat minor,Op 16, No.1,” both which seemed to contain “new-found” pianistic expressions, as did Liszt’s difficult “Apres une Lecture du Dante: Fantasia quai Sonata.”
With these highly pianistic works, though seemingly aloof personally (he might have been nervous), Sanchez-Werner took us on an intense emotional journey, a journey that I will always remember. Magic fingers, wondrous expressiveness, and a talent worthy of worship.
The enthralled audience “demanded” two encores. Sanchez-Werner chose a Chopin nocturne and, fittingly, Earl Wild’s (who helped found Shandelee) “Variations on I Got Rhythm.” Joyous!
Subsequent Festival concerts with outstanding musicians will be held on August 20 (Adrienn Kantor and Erika Allen, flute and piano), August 22 (violinist Dmitri Berlinsky and Friends) and August 24 (Aeolus String Quartet).
I’ll be there. You should also.
Tickets can be reserved at www.shandelee.org and 845-439-3277.