Boston musical life would be poorer by 18 concerts a year absent the generosity of Hammond Residential Real Estate. The peripatetic Hammond Performing Arts Series rang in 2016 with a soldout free event at Lexington’s Follen Church on Sunday afternoon, and lucky indeed were the underserved public who arrived in force for violinist Yevgeny Kutik, cellist Julian Schwarz, and pianist Marika Bournaki. Underserved but not underinformed were these attendees, if one can be permitted to generalize from an overheard conversation between a dithyrambic collector of 5000 CDs and his 90-year-old captive listener.
The Hammond enterprise invites both regular players and guests to its concerts at nine locations where its parent company operates. If you call Saul, he will tell you that “…talented music artists deserve performance opportunities, and that it is right to enrich the cultural life in communities in which we live and do business.” The players on this Sunday, seemingly new as an ensemble, demonstrated the qualities inherent in ad-hoc enterprise: caution, rare accidents, over-the-top enthusiasms, and in general a winning frisson.
The uncomplicated warmth of the the Pappagenoesque cellist coupled strangely with the pianist, whose Paminaesque entrance on 4” heels did not exactly presage the straightahead, unicolor manner tendered Beethoven’s Seven Variations on ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’ (from the Magic Flute). That said, the competitive duetting conjured diva interactions witnessed from the operahouse box—especially Schwarz, who, playing from memory, winked and furrowed his way through the birdcatcher’s emotional range. If Bournaki never quite recovered from a bad page turn early on, part of that may have also been due to the instrument. Well-tuned and -voiced, it was rather constricted of palette. The players moreover never interacted visually. The cellist dominated to an extent that Beethoven, who placed the piano first on the title page, might have cajoled her.
Joining the pianist, the boilingly intense Russian-American violinist Kutik brought uncharacteristic fire to Stravinsky’s neoclassical longueur in Duo Concertante, from 1932. Bournaki seemed quite alert to the violinist’s effusions and managed to stay with him reliably. The movements were well-characterized, the Gigue in particular vividly realized by both, as the delicatesse and irony yielded to something approaching relentless fury. The Dithyrambe finale found both players urgently pleading and effectively selling.
Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello provided the scaffold for the most fully realized playing of the afternoon, the two generous and romantic artists achieving real partnering. As they exhorted, argued, listened and competed, Ravel’s harmonic oversophistication yielded to melodic conviviality. Ever attentive to refinement of textures and lyrical nuances, the players seemed to banish the relentlessness that characterizes lesser interpretations. As they worked the different registers of their instruments, they produced an elevated expression that transcended the eight strings at their disposal. They should lay this one down on CD.
Brahms’s Piano Trio 1 in B Major, Op 8, brought all three players together for an impulsive and loud traversal of one of the master’s most beloved chamber works. If there was little repose, Bournaki’s patient and passionate intro to the Adagio being the major exception, then engagement and abandon compensated aplenty for the grateful crowd.