I finally got a chance to sample the action at Downtown Piano Works on Friday evening, when Amit Peled, the exceptional cellist and Peabody faculty member, gave a recital with pianist Dina Vainshtein. It proved well worth the drive, even if the program was just an hour long (not complaining, mind you -- I've become increasingly fond of short concerts).
Peled, recently featured in a performance of Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the BSO, is a commanding musician in tone and temperament. Hearing him up close reconfirmed those attributes in a big way.
Beethoven's A major Sonata, Op. 69, got quite a workout. It's possible to emphasize elegance and refinement in this piece, to keep tempos in check, and leave a great impression. Peled went for the bold instead, digging into the music with considerable expressive fire. He and Vainshtein pushed things along to bracing effect (the piano lid was up all the way, adding to visceral impact of the performance).
The well-matched players balanced the Beethoven with a remarkable rarity, a work
by 20th century Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze: "Five Pieces on Folk Themes." The bittersweet opening song and endearing "Nana" movement allowed Peled's lyrical side to bloom eloquently, while the virtuosic movements, especially the colorful, cello-only, pizzicato "Chonguri," were delivered with elan.
For an encore, there was the slow movement from Chopin's Cello Sonata, which inspired exquisite phrasing from Peled and beautifully nuanced support from Vainshtein.
The recital afforded an opportunity to judge Peled's new cello, a rich-toned Schnabl instrument recently made for him in Germany. The cellist, who usually plays on a highly-prized Guarneri, joked that this was the first time he gave a recital where the piano was was more expensive than his cello.
Peled did a lot of joking, by the way, in remarks to the audience; he's a funny guy. His amiable and inviting personality is exactly the type everyone says we'll need more of if classical music is to survive.
Here's a sample of Peled's artistry, taken from a recital a few years ago -- the gorgeous slow movement of Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata:
PHOTO COURTESY OF PEABODY INSTITUTE