Goosby and Wang Emote for Ashmont

Zhu Wang, pianist (photo Jiyang Chen)

On the way to Logan’s airport after his gig for Ashmont Hill Chamber Music yesterday afternoon, young violin phenom extraordinaire and unapologetic romantic Randall Goosby told us about the most important career advice he didn’t have. never considered. “Just play the notes on the page so composers can speak directly to the audience and let the audience provide the interpretation,” one teacher warned. But Goosby took another path, that of an invested advocate for composers and a committed communicator with his listeners. Cold detachment was not his way.

The announced cohesive program adheres to a theme of extroverted yet technically demanding melodic music by channelers of African-American songs, African-American composers’ own works, and Grieg’s overheated Third Sonata. Never diminishing to cool or even lukewarm, the playing of Goosby and his super-expressive pianist partner Zhu Wang often ignited the passions of the snowy packed house to the highest degree.

But first violist Nathan Theodore, a shining example of the Project Step-Ashmont Hill partnership, had joined Goosby in the Rondeau of Mozart’s Duo No. 1 in G major for violin and viola. After studying the viola for 11 years and playing for five years in the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the Watertown High School senior, who plans to enroll at Notre Dame in chemical engineering and viola next fall, has more than held up. Without any shyness, he held his own with Goosby, exchanging fire and dominance as Mozart demanded. His tone projected well and with precision, but beyond that, his display of confidence and commitment beyond his years brought great pleasure to his many rooters. His instrument spoke quickly and softly as he lined up perfectly with the Strad-wielding Goosby, and he never less than held his own.

Dvořák’s Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100 (1893) is something of a summary of his embrace of American musical exceptionalism. “I am convinced”, he wrote, “that the future of music in this country must be based on what are called nigger melodies”. the New world Symphony, the American The String Quartet and Afternoon Sonatina all skillfully but generously inscribe our nostalgic native song into European form while expanding and developing the material into compelling concert works. Of course, Dvořák provided both pianist and violinist with opportunities not only to show off their talents, but also to project unbridled passions. Neither player skimped on both points. Wang’s face betrayed what he was feeling to an unusual degree, while Goosby’s masked look could only be judged by his rising and falling eyebrows. We could generally characterize the Allegro Risoluto as alternately declamatory and amorous, and having lived it for a while together, the duo delighted us on both sides, bringing an almost bluesy touch to certain tunes, while embroidering them with sensitivity. twisting harmonies and virtuoso forms. The Larghetto invoked universal desire through inflections that always played at the heart. The Scherzo came across as something of a quick stroll, and the Finale recalled Steven Foster, but with a development. The instruments acted like bellows, warming the glowing embers of cozy campfires into bonfires blazing with emotion.

Some 50 years later, Florence Price was also adapting and expanding the folksong into works for the concert stage. His Fantasy No. 2 in F sharp minor places one or more unnamed folk tunes in a powerfully scintillating setting. John Michael Cooper writes:

The main theme sounds like “Talkin’ ’bout a Child That Do Love Jesus”, especially as arranged by William Levi Dawson (1899-1990). However, Price’s body of other articles make it clear that she did in fact define “I’m Workin’ on My Buildin’.” Price’s version of this tune does not agree with any other published version, but one of the autographs states that her version was “as sung to Fannie Carter Wood of Chicago / by her grandmother Malinda Carter / a former slave from Memphis Tennessee “.

Wang’s flexible and idiomatic rendition of the introduction was fully heralded by descending, descending, descending chromatically, somehow suggesting the more familiar “Go Down Moses.” And throughout, the expressive ambiguity of Price’s sophisticated language (she’s an NEC graduate) kept us guessing. Spinning, and spinning, all the while reaching a fierce climax with scrupulously executed fast figurations and swiftly descending violin. The tension and release suited its placement between Grieg and Dvořák, but more than that, if you’ll forgive my suggestibility, the performance of these young Orpheus figures would have melted Pharaoh’s heart and God could have done without the plagues. .

The music director of the Gardner Museum, George Steele, suggested the next work, Dawson’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, to Goosby and Wang.

When I first heard Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony about 20 years ago, I was hooked. It’s a wonderful piece, beautifully written for the orchestra. Yet the only other Dawson music I knew was choral works. The nagging intuition that he must have written other instrumental works led me to explore the collection of his papers at Emory, where, to my delight and amazement, I came across his marvelous Violin Sonata , as well as two additional versions of his slow moment. We’ve included the lovely string quartet version in the opening episode “Deep River” of our “Witness” video series. And I immediately contacted Randall to possibly play the complete sonata.

Goosby and Wang will perform this “wonderful and unknown music” at the Gardner on April 24and. Details HERE.

While the work re-dresses what might pass for mere airs in formal academic attire, it does so on a much more uniform keel than what we heard in the more volatile Price Fantasy. And because the work is new to the performers, they sometimes seemed to be searching for pathways through thickets of cyclical sensations. Nevertheless, some moments clicked, like the transition in the second Largo-Scherzando movement. A calm, dignified reserve turned into a joyous rhythm as piano and violin alternated in the theme and a serpentine embrace of it. The closed movement bathed in the hues of the golden hour. A rehearing in April may reveal more reasons to save this work from oblivion. For me, he somewhat exceeded his materials.

Edward Grieg wrote his Sonata No. 3 in C minor (Op. 45) for violin and piano only seven years before the Dvořák composed his Sonatina; in terms of scholarly treatment of vernacular music and raging hormones, the two works were perfectly matched programmatic bookends. Sometimes lyrical and sometimes folkloric Peer Gyntish, the sonata felt specially made for the incandescent, fiery artistry of Wang and Goosby. In the first movement, Wang wooed us with pearly undulations; as Goosby joined the fight, the affect morphed into a seething cauldron of wizards with almost orchestral force. At times, in the third movement, the throbbing G string of Goosby’s Strad evoked Verdi’s Azucena in full rage. Their excessive communicative generosity made us all welcome captives.

Lee Eiseman is the editor of the Spy