A disappointingly small audience turned out for one of the most significant and worthwhile concerts of the 2010 Maverick Concerts season in Woodstock. Saturday evening. The duo Opus Two, violinist William Terwilliger and pianist Andrew Cooperstock, played a recital called “American Spirit,” and they justified their title with both repertoire and performance.
The program opened with Aaron Copland’s regrettably scarce Violin Sonata (written three years after his summer sojourn in Woodstock with Benjamin Britten). This plainspoken, unaffected music shares the aesthetic of the contemporaneous Appalachian Spring, and to this listener at least it seems equally expressive and effective. In fact, the way the music frequently changes tempo and mood even within its movements is similar to Copland’s ballet writing. The performance was lively and alert throughout, and, as with the entire recital, beautifully balanced.
Needing material to fill out an all-Bernstein chamber CD, Opus Two commissioned composer Eric Stern to create a suite of music from a Bernstein operetta, Four Movements from “Candide.” Stern did outstanding work, imaginatively rescoring Bernstein’s songs to make them sound like real chamber music. I thought that the third movement, the famous “Glitter and Be Gay,” would have been a better finale. Again the performance was outstanding, aiding in the transformation from vocal to instrumental idiom.
Robert Starer (1924-2001) was a personal friend, so I cannot pretend to be objective about his music. I can say, though, that Starer created an immediately recognizable, individual style, and that if I hear something of his on the radio I can always tell whose music it is before I hear the announcement. Starer’s Duo for Violin and Piano is a continuous meditation lasting about 15 minutes. Although it may seem like stream-of-thought, its opening material generates much of what follows and returns occasionally. It was fascinating to hear this music on the same program with the Copland Sonata. Copland was one of Starer’s teachers, and the Duo sounds as though it contains deliberate reflections of Copland’s work. These musicians recorded the Duo in 1995, and their long experience with it showed in a completely convincing performance.
The program concluded with the early Violin Sonata of John Corigliano. It was written for his father, John Corigliano Sr., and the father’s recording of the music for CRI was Corigliano’s first recorded work. This large neo-romantic work is not as substantial as the masterful work this composer has created since, but it’s still quite entertaining and easily holds a listener’s attention for nearly half an hour. Its finale has some apparent echoes of Bernstein’s work. Pleased with their enthusiastic reception from the audience, Opus Two gave us an American encore: Jascha Heifetz’s transcription of Foster’s “I Dream of Jeannie,” played with affecting lyricism.
Often when I hear performers who offer only specialized repertoire, I can understand why they specialize. Hearing the strengths of this duo, though, I’d love to hear them play Beethoven.
In its Maverick Concerts debut, the violin and piano duo Opus Two (William Terwilliger and Andrew Cooperstock) offered an all-American program, all performed with virtuosity, musicianship, and excellent balance. The rarely-heard Violin Sonata of Aaron Copland was revealed as a neglected masterpiece. Eric Stern’s arrangement of Leonard Bernstein music, Four Moments from “Candide,” actually sounded like chamber music. The ensemble recorded Robert Starer’s Duo for Violin and Piano 15 years ago and still plays it convincingly. John Corigliano’s Violin Sonata, an early, neo-romantic work, isn’t the composer’s most mature music but it was still lots of fun in a lively, virtuosic rendition.