IVCI Laureate Concert
Indiana History Center
Last Tuesday, the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis launched, for the first time, its own complete chamber series. In past years, the IVCI sponsored two local chamber groups: Suzuki and Friends and the Ronen Chamber Ensemble, both of which it has dropped this season (save for one appearance each) in favor of featuring violin laureates of the competition, past and present, in each program. It certainly seemed apropos to begin this "new" season with the current IVCI gold medalist, Barnabás Kelemen.
Barnabás Kelemen opened the new IVCI Laureate Series.
This is Kelemen's first local chamber appearance since winning the big prize here in September 2002. He currently plays the famous 1683 Ex-Gingold Strad, which each gold medalist gets the use of for his four-year tenure. The also venerable Anne Epperson served as Kelemen's piano accompanist. She is the longest, most ingratiating fixture throughout our competitions over the years. Her musicianship and pianism exemplary, Epperson exhibits a touch of "gold" herself.
In a program featuring only mainstream composers, the Kelemen/Epperson duo began with Brahms' impassioned early Sonatensatz (sonata movement) in C Minor (1853). Dominated by a brusque, tension-filled dotted rhythm, the movement is an interesting precursor to the composer's much more famous F Minor Piano Quintet's scherzo. It definitely got the ample audience's attention (the IHC Theater was nearly packed).
Next came Mozart's Violin Sonata in G, K. 301, an ingratiating, two-movement work, played by both partners with much spirit and beautiful dynamic control. The piece was very ... well, Mozartean.
Schumann's Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 105, a piece I don't recall previously appearing in local venues, was then given. Though written during Schumann's last five years - just before he "went crazy" - it's a substantial three-movement work. Kelemen showed some nervous bowing, some of his leaps landing off-pitch, but no worse than can be expected from the lion's share of touring violinists. Epperson's pianistic touch was superbly shaped throughout.
The duo's program also contained two Humoresques of Jean Sibelius: No. 2, Op. 89 and No. 2, Op. 87 - in that order. Both played unproblematically, the first is pensive, the second rapid and light. Bartok's Rhapsody No. 1 for violin and piano, its two movements ending the program, shows the Hungarian modernist on his lighter side. And our Hungarian fiddler showed his mastery of this material.
As you may have noticed, I've not overtly praised Kelemen's playing in this recital. He actually is quite an accomplished touring soloist with a promising career, and has to be ranked among the IVCI's better gold medalists (Judith Ingolffson from 1998 has been the best since its 1982 launch). Kelemen's virtuosity and musicality are, however, neither more astonishing nor more commonplace - in this field of playing - than Soovin Kim and Frank Huang's: 2002 bronze medalist and fourth-place laureate respectively, and both of whom having since appeared here the most often.
As I reported following the competition, it was silver medalist Sergey Khachatryan who set that two-week event on fire, with tonal and musical attributes far beyond what we associate with "competition" playing - a player for all seasons, as it were. Not only were similar comments from other competition faithfuls made to me during this recital, but several months ago, Khachatryan won the "gold" at the Queen Elizabeth in Brussels, Europe's most prestigious violin competition. Thus it is not likely this 20-year-old Armenian will be a part of the Laureate series anytime soon.