Brahms-Fest Concerts 1 & 2 at Trinity
with Andrew Sords, Megan Guegold & Elizabeth DeMio
Mid-day concerts offer music lovers a respite from an often-hectic schedule, and for nearly thirty-five years, Trinity Cathedral’s noontime Brownbag Concerts have provided Northeast Ohio audiences that amenity.
Following last season's successful Britten-Fest, Todd Wilson, Director of Music at Trinity and artistic director of the Brownbag Concert Series, dedicated the past three concerts to the music of Johannes Brahms. I attended the first and second concerts that featured the composer's three violin sonatas performed by two technically skillful and musically sensitive musicians, violinist Andrew Sords and pianist Elizabeth DeMio. The October 10 concert included sonatas No. 1 and 3. The cycle was completed on October 17 with sonata No. 2. Rounding out that program, Sords and DeMio were joined by the excellent hornist Megan Guegold in a stunning performance of Brahms's brilliantly crafted Horn Trio in E-flat.
Written in 1865 to commemorate the death of his mother earlier that year, the horn trio reflects on the various stages of grief. Brahms said the simple theme that begins the work came to him while walking through the woods, and the introspective playing by the performers served the spiritual nature of the music wonderfully. The playful Scherzo representing happier times was performed with finesse and well-balanced grandeur. The solemn Adagio took on a truly mystical quality. Here Sords made the musically astute decision to forgo vibrato in certain passages in favor of blending with his colleagues. The final Allegro con brio galloped, and Guegold's horn calls projected splendidly. Prior to the performance, Sords jokingly told the large audience, “It may seem like an odd combination of instruments, but it really does work.” And this was a performance that worked!
It’s commonly understood that Brahms violin sonatas really should be titled sonatas for violin and piano, as both instruments are equal partners. And during the performances of the three sonatas, Andrew Sords and Elizabeth DeMio were indeed partners. Their approach to these works was thoughtful, the balances were excellent and credit needs to be given to DeMio for never overpowering Sords's lush sound even in the most thickly written passages.
All of the tempos in Sonata No. 1 in G Major were well chosen and the players had great musical rapport. The performance of Sonata No. 3 in D- minor was superb. The opening Allegro was well paced, highlighting the movement's long phrases. The final Presto erupted in a full and glorious sound.
During Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Sords and DeMio were again in complete musical agreement with one another, playing with the tempos ever so slightly during the opening Allegro amabile without ever becoming self-indulgent. The middle movement, which serves as both the slow movement and scherzo, was tossed off with bravura. In the final Allegretto grazioso, Sords projected easily with a sound that was never forced.
Click here to comment on this article. All comments will be moderated by the editorial staff.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com October 25, 2012
Click here for a printable version of this article.