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Sweeping Measures at Longy

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Patricia-Kopatchinskaja (file photo)

Celebrity Series of Boston Debut Series presented the barefooted “wild child of the violin” Patricia Kopatchinskaja in duo with Jay Campbell, a cellist possessing an imposing proclivity for present-day performance. On Thursday, the pair opened a two-night stand at Longy’s Pickman Hall in flabbergasting sets of Machaut and Ravel, the Winchester Troper and Ligeti, Orlando Gibbons and Jörg Widmann. Their Kodály expounded narratives summoning Hermann’s score to Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Kopatchinskaja has earned the description of “megawatt star,” however, in teaming up with Campbell, what is electric only figured in amongst several other illuminating factors affecting many things.

Their program’s fragile first tones placed an Alleuia out of the 11th-century Winchester Troper into an atmospheric zone, not quite heavenly, closer to other worldly chanting ghosts. The cello ranged only at the top of the highest string, the violin bowing the fingerboard pianissimo.

Bypassing applause, Kopatchinskaja-Campbell gently turned terrestrial in Jörg Widmann’s Valse bavaroise. The duo caught the flirting specters of familiar waltzes that appeared and vanished as suggested by the composer: “playful elements of the work therefore always remain serious and the serious element playful.” Plucking and bowing their way through Toccantina all’inglese in a variety of ways also appeared to have met with the composer’s intent: “Tricks and effects are totally absent.”

A six-century shift from this two-pack selection from 24 Duos for violin and cello to one of many fantasias crafted by Orlando Gibbons seemed seamless. Fantasia a due, No. 4 via Kopatchinskaja-Campbell departed the ways of today’s Renaissance purists by making the old indeed sound young and resilient.

The subsequent shift to Ravel’s Sonata for violin and cello sounded at first, almost imperceptible. The caring affection of Ravel’s music traveled in Kopatchinskaja-Campbell’s own terms to convey elusive exquisiteness. With that in mind, it became questionable to be taken so far out of Ravel in the Trés vif. Could it have been this twosome’s intent to draw more connections to the evening’s “mixed” repertoire, so Hungarian had the Frenchman been morphed. Their Lent created ties more convincingly, both sonorously and formally. Making too much of the already built in complexity of the Vif, avec entrain, they lost me.

The joining of Xenakis’s Dhipli Zyia, Machaut’s Balade 4:Biauté qui, and Ligeti’s Hommage à Hilding Rosenberg, looked dubious on paper; in fact, it heralded sweeping measures yet to come!

Jay Campbell (file photo)

The finisher for the couple’s imaginative continuum, Kodály’s Duo for violin and cello, Opus 7, chronicled a mindscape far beyond the merely aesthetically pleasing. Kopatchinskaja-Campbell launched into the 25-minutes with a pure sweetness hitherto unheard. Richly profiled accompaniments arose to dialogues with the melodic lines. In the Adagio-Andante, the two beckoned Ravel’s slow movement, confirming their finely wrought and holistic bit of programming.

After a Ravel flashback, Kodály’s first crying out developed into wailing and, ultimately, screaming with stabbing notes right out of Psycho’s indelible shower scene. The variously marked tempos of the third movement, themselves suggesting unrest, found just that with the twosome. Then, after their strikingly rhapsodic Maestoso e largamente, this perfect partnership vividly tantalized Kodály’s ultra-long crescendo of build-and-back-off passages, achieving a decisive exuberance. A truly real finish arrived in a performance teeming with high adventure, only one of its kind personalities, and rare promise. 

In whispered pizzicato, Kopatchinskaja-Campbell submitted C.P.E. Bach’s Presto, H. 230 for an encore. While Campbell resolved his cadential tone in timely fashion, Kopatchinskaja sounded her complementary resolution at the threshold of audibility only after having us hold our collective breaths—how symbolic.  

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.  He is the author of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).  www.notescape.net

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