– Buffalo NEWS CONTRIBUTING REVIEWER
Tuesday's Musical Feast in the Kavinoky Theatre was a two-parter: the first course consisting of well-done musical tapas
(works for solo instruments) while the second half of the program featured piquant flavors provided by Igor Stravinsky.
It all began with violinist Charles
Castleman's vibrant pairing of works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Eugene Ysaye. The beautiful first movement ("Preludio") for Bach's third Partita for Violin Solo (BWV 1006)
fed well into the front end of Ysaye's second Sonata for Violin Solo where the very first phrase serves to lead the listener from Bach's baroque masterpiece to Ysaye's world of the
early 20th century in an almost seamless fashion. Castleman has been gradually performing Ysaye's set of six sonatas for solo violin at the Musical Feast concerts, having already
played the third, fourth and sixth works of the cycle on previous programs. He has a special authority with these scores and it will be interesting to hear him visit them in further
Closing out the first half of the program was the third work for a solo instrument Ñ the "Abyss Of the Birds," a movement for lone clarinet from
Olivier Messiaen's "Quatuor pour la fin du temps " (aka the "Quartet for the End Of Time") that evokes plaintive bird song most convincingly in Jean Kopperud's
performance. Her uncanny, disciplined attention to the score's tonal nuances was impressive to say the least.
Kopperud also took part in the final work on the program, Stravinsky's
"L'histoire du Soldat" (aka "The Soldier's Tale"). At nearly an hour long, this rarely heard piece from the composer's repertoire demands (and rewards) the
listener's attention, especially when performed with the skill and attention to detail that conductor Christian Baldini and the seven piece instrumental ensemble gave to it, filled as
the group was with BPO players and talented faculty from that bastion of modern music practitioners at the University at Buffalo.
Stravinsky originally envisioned this
work as being performed by three scripted roles Ñ a narrator, the Devil and Soldier Ñ plus a dancer. The dancing was dispensed with, as it usually is in performance these days, but
the three spoken personalities were handled by Paul Todaro, a talented actor whose most recent appearance on the Kavinoky stage was in the play "Twelve Angry Men." He
managed the task set before him with admirable professionalism, coming up with a pseudo-cockney accent for the Soldier and a Bela Lugosi-like approach to the Devil's voice in addition
to his normal speaking qualities as narrator. It was better to have had this particular piece performed in this form than not to have seen and heard it at all.