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Violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov were the artists featured, and for a change, I was seated out in the lobby. Imagine a large letter T -- the stage area being at the top of the juncture of the two bars. Seating is at either side of this configuration, (the room is a huge oblong) with more seating out in a lobby, or the upright portion of the T. There is another smaller seating area to the rear of this one, up a short flight of stairs. Previously I'd been seated in various areas of the left side of the room. For the evening's concerts I was to be on the right for yet another change.

The program was three works by Schubert. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the violinist was nearly inaudible in the first two. The piano lid was up full, as it has been most of the week, and Ms Faust stood slightly to the right and the rear of the pianist. She does play with a very soft, slightly austere but sweet sound -- or at least she did this time. I'll hear her again before the week is out, and will hopefully have a better impression then.

The piano parts in the Fantasie D934 and the Sonata in A major D574 were both very busy, and kept Mr Melnikov busy as well. I thought I detected a bit of Hungarian influence in the Rondo brillant in B minor D895, but even if not, I was at last able to hear Ms Faust a bit better in this work. People seated around me also mentioned the difficulty in hearing the violin, yet they also said they generally prefer those seats to being in the room itself. A mystery, to be sure.

The evening concert was nearly beyond description. It began with Mahler Lied sung by the German baritone Christian Gerhaher, assisted by Gerold Huber at the piano. Five of the six songs were from Das Knaben Wunderhorn, while the sixth was from Das Lied von der Erde. Mr Gerhaher has these songs in his very blood, I think, as they were just marvellously well performed with passion and intelligence and sensitivity. The songs were placed perfectly for his vocal range, showing off his gorgeous high notes. In Mahler's own sometimes simplistic, yet very difficult, piano reductions, Mr Huber was the very best collaborative pianist I've heard this week, which is saying a lot, believe me. The musical quality of this Festival is generally incredible!

Elisabeth Leonskaja has performed an amazing amount of music this week, and she's nowhere near done yet. Joining with two veteran colleagues -- Mikhail Kopelman, violin, and Mikhail Milman, cello -- they created musical fireworks in the Piano Trio in A minor, subtitled 'To the memory of a great artist' -- by Tchaikovsky.

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Copyright © 7 July 2007 Kelly Ferjutz, Bantry, Ireland


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