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The evening on Monday featured two marvelous programs: the earlier or Main Evening Concert featuring two rather unfamiliar works and one in the standard repertoire. The Late Night Concert featured one work -- the well-known Rosamunde Quartet of Schubert.

Not so many years ago, the music of George Enescu was quite popular, but then he sort of fell off the musical map. How nice, then, to be able to hear his Sonata No 2 for Piano and Violin (Op 6) in this impassioned 'take-no-prisoners' performance by two such gifted young artists as Finghin Collins, piano and Liza Ferschtman, violin. The intensity with which they invested this work brought extraordinary enjoyment to the listeners.

The lid of the Steinway was up full, yet at no time did the piano overpower the violin. At times it sounded rather like the two soloists were each playing a different piece, yet the sonorities they produced never clashed. It was one of those extraordinary performances that will live in memory for a long time. Actually, the entire evening was of that sort.

The gifted mezzo-soprano Mila Shkirtil presented another unusual story in song, accompanied this time by the Cuarteto Casals. The Italian composer Ottorino Respighi set Il Tramonto ('The Sunset'), a poem by Shelley to music in 1918. There are two versions: full string orchestra or string quartet. It is dramatic enough to warrant the larger ensemble, but the more intimate string quartet seemed to suit -- and support -- the words much better.

Ms Shkirtil was again marvelous in portraying the meaning of the words, which were sung in Italian, with translation provided in a booklet. The music began with a 'Tristan' chord, which usually signifies longing, and it certainly seemed accurate in this case, as well. It is a tale of lost love, and life-long mourning by a young woman whose lover dies mysteriously. At times, the singer personified an almost joyful melancholy. Her wails at finding her young lover dead beside her were heart-wrenching.

The Cuarteto Casals were marvelous collaborative artists, sensitive to every nuance of the song. Why aren't there more works for this combination of voice and instruments? With artists of this caliber available, there certainly ought to be!

Concerts at this festival go from strength to strength, leaving the listener boggled by the thought of what incredible listening experience is yet to come? To close this main concert three previously heard performers returned with a stunning performance of the Beethoven Piano Trio No 5 in E flat Op 70 No 2. Liza Ferschtman, violin and Peter Bruns, cello, joined with pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja for a truly spirited rendition. The ethereal beginning belied the tempestuousness to follow in this full-bodied performance that left smiles on the faces of the audience members.

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Copyright © 4 July 2007 Kelly Ferjutz, Bantry, Ireland


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