The Newport Music Festival is famous for its late and lamented director, Mark Malkovich III’s propensity to program minor works of obscure composers and complete sets of chamber works of major composers as well as for his American introductions of important European artists. Mark was sui generis; we embraced his many enthusiasms and will sorely miss his artistry. He was the last of the old-school impresarios.
It also needs to be said that some of those “enthusiasms” that attracted a dedicated cadre of young artists often overstressed them into deliveries of sub-optimal performances of works they never wished to play again. And Mark’s zeal for completeness induced performers to include mediocre works of major composers within larger surveys. So it has always been with a mix of anticipation and dread that I have come to Newport.
On July 14, the estimable duo of violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky and pianist Konstantin Lifschitz performed installment number three (Sonata No. 22 in E flat Major, Sonata No. 21 in F Major, and Sonata No. 24 in E flat Major) in their five-concert survey this season of the complete (adult) Mozart sonatas for violin and piano at Newport’s Breakers cottage. Sitkovetsky told me in the green room afterward that he accepted an invitation to perform at the Festival on the condition that he could choose his collaborators and repertoire. Respected for his conducting as well as his violin playing, Sitkovetsky has the standing to impose such conditions.
Because the two performers have partnered for many years, and because they have recorded all of the Mozart violin and piano sonatas (link), their perfection of ensemble exceeded summer standards by an order of magnitude in what was some of the finest modern-style Mozart playing that this reviewer has heard. This was not powdered-wig and wilting-phrase Mozart. It was propelled by a sense of architecture which carried each movement through a single unbroken line.
Lifschitz, well known for his Bach and Shostakovich, played the Yamaha with the lid fully raised. His tone often filled the lofty ballroom with a large and warm sound, yet it never overwhelmed his confident and poised partner. Both players exhibited exemplary articulation, perhaps in part to compensate for the reverberations.
One was left with a memory of a great collaboration of two assured artists in complete command and totally on the same page interpretively, who took great pleasure in their masterful performance.
Check the BMInt “Upcoming Events” for more performances by these artists and many others. Of special note is Konstantin Lifschitz’s traversal of Bach’s Art of Fugue on July 17.
F. Lee Eiseman is the publisher of the Boston Musical Intelligencer.