Folk Inflections in a Generous Evening

United StatesUnited States Haydn, Enescu, Bartók, and Brahms: Stefan Milenkovich and Andrea Segar (violins), Alan Iglitzin (viola), Matthew Zalkind (cello), Julio Elizalde (piano), Olympic Music Festival, Quilcene, WA, 3.8.2013 (BJ)

Haydn: String Quartet in D major, Op. 20 No. 4
Enescu: Violin Sonata No. 3, Op. 25, In the Romanian Folk Style
Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56
Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34

Two major masterpieces were effectively contrasted, in this program titled “Gypsy Reflections,” with a pair of works that stressed folk inflections. Paired around intermission, the two latter pieces again showcased the wealth of violinistic talent that Alan Iglitzin’s Olympic Music Festival is able to draw upon.

The technical and expressive demands of Enescu’s spacious Third Violin Sonata were brilliantly met by Andrea Segar, who, jumping in at short notice for the indisposed Ilana Setapen, joined pianist (and Festival Co-Artistic Director) Julio Elizalde in a performance that must have had most audience members on the edge of their seats in response to the often dizzying turns of the music and the virtuosity with which these two gifted young artists negotiated them. The other gypsy-ish—or at any rate Romanian—piece was Bartók’s popular set of six Romanian Folk Dances, equally stunningly played by Stefan Milenkovich. He’s a musician with a big personality, whose introductory words revealed him to be not just a terrific violinist but also a stand-up comic with split-second timing and an uproarious range of facial expression.

Ms. Segar occupied the first-violin chair for the Haydn quartet that opened the program. This is a wonderful work, whose minuet—a scherzo before its time—has an “Allegretto alla zingarese” tempo marking that fitted well in the overall scheme of the program. Segar, Milenkovich, Iglitzin, and Zalkind, in his Festival debut, gracefully realized the lyricism of the first two movements, stressed the minuet’s lurching second- and third-beat accents to tingling effect (Zalkind dashing off his cello solo in the trio with relish), and gave one of Haydn’s most sportive finales a highly entertaining work-out.

The two violinists exchanged assignments for Brahms, Milenkovich taking the first-violin seat. This was a thrillingly spirited account of the great Piano Quintet. The balance in the slow movement was perhaps a little unfair to the pianist’s opening statement of Brahms’s bewitching theme, which is marked with a single p in contrast to the strings’ pp. I suppose you could argue that the keyboard instrument’s further direction, “espress. sotto voce,” changes the picture, but still, I felt that the theme would have benefitted from a touch more prominence.

The players demonstrated such strong identification with the work’s almost Beethovenish drama, with the hell-for-leather fury of the scherzo, and with the broad expressive contrasts of the finale that it’s perhaps churlish to complain about their omission of the first-movement repeat. A few repeat directions were also ignored in the Haydn. In any case, the very generous length of the program may be considered to have justified those omissions, and I prefer to end with heartfelt thanks for the afternoon’s prodigal musical rewards.

Bernard Jacobson