Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stuart and Sarah at Old First Concerts

Old First Concerts at the sweet Old First Church on Sacramento and Van Ness are an existing treasure from the 1970s, inexpensive classical/jazz/world music concerts ($15-$20) once or twice a week featuring some of the most interesting musicians in the Bay Area and the world. Plus, you can always be assured of a weird hairdo sitting nearby in the audience.

Last Friday the Berkeley pianist Sarah Cahill collaborated with violinist Stuart Canin on an ambitious chamber music program that was a treat in almost every way.

Canin started with a Kreisler violin showpiece, Praeludium and Allegro, which was attributed to the 18th century Italian composer Pugnani but was actually written by the violinist Kreisler himself. It was fun, silky, and full of opportunities to show off, which Canin did splendidly. The 89-year-old violinist, with one of the more interesting careers of the 20th century (click here for a quick bio by Janos Gereben), had some intonation problems in the ensuing Stravinsky Duo Concertant and the Brahms Sonata in A major, Op. 100, but it didn't matter because the music came through and Cahill's playing was a large part of that success.

After intermission, Sarah played the world premiere of two movements from Green Sea, a five-movement piece by Luciano Chessa above, that sounded a bit like an unusually gentle minimalist pop song that was very attractive.

The concert ended energetically with Prokofiev's Sonata in D major, with both performers in top form. Sarah offered a playfulness to the accompanying music that most Prokofiev pianists don't convey, and Canin jumped back on track to give a very entertaining account.

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