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Hidden Gems at Steinert & Sons


The brutally cold weather in Boston on January 16 was not enough to keep a sizable audience from catching an assortment of fantastic performances by violinist Olga Kachanova and pianist Constantine Finehouse. The third floor of the Steinert and Sons piano gallery serves as a reminder that, in Boston, quality concerts can be found in the most unassuming venues. The program featured works by the usual big guys: Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Bach, Tchaikovsky. But near the end Finehouse announced they would perform a couple of hidden gems not on the program, a passage from Gluck’s Orfeo and Bartok’s Romanian Dances, which really juiced up the evening.

My reaction to the Kachenova and Finehouse’s performance of Ludwig Van’s Sonata in G major was unusual: tight —  a word that usually comes to mind when hearing a veteran jazz combo. It was bewildering to hear two “up-and-coming” performers play with the organic togetherness of musicians who have been collaborating for decades. It’s not just a matter of execution, but that sort of higher tier of interpretation that gives vibrancy to a performance. The piece was filled with contrast, energy, and sensitivity — and the performers truly captured the musical humor and personality of the Poco allegretto.

Finehouse’s performance of Alexander Scriabin’s Deux Poemes shows an immaculate understanding of early-20th-century French piano music (which the Russian composer seems to have executed better than most of his French counterparts). The fluidity and warmth of the performance was captivating – and so it remained all the way through the generally impersonal Rachmaninoff prelude.

Kachanova delighted the audience with a beautifully delicate performance of the Tchaikovsky Meditation for Violin and Piano. Navigating the extreme high-register in this piece without invoking cringing faces in the audience is demanding enough — doing it with musicality is really worthy of recognition. The following excerpt from Gluck’s Orfeo was breathtaking.

Siloti’s arrangement of Bach’s Prelude in B minor is strikingly un-Bach-like (and not because the original was actually in E minor).The piece flows with a fragile softness, with little reminiscence of any Baroque style. The piece was performed gorgeously, exhibiting an interesting perspective on how we normally perceive the music of Bach.

The concert closed with a wildly energetic show of Bartok’s Romanian Dances. While Kachanova’s performances were poignant throughout the evening, it was refreshing to see her loosen up and have fun. The performance was filled with the kind of strident grit that the piece calls for (and rarely receives), exploiting the astounding versatility of the performers.

Peter Van Zandt Lane is a composer and bassoonist who performs regularly in the Boston area. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Music Composition and Theory at Brandeis University.

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