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WPAS Presents Violist Jennifer Stumm

On Tuesday evening Washington Performing Arts Society presented Atlanta native Jennifer Stumm, the first violist ever to win first prize in the Concert Artist Guild International Competition in its 55-year history. For this recital at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, Stumm was joined by Irish pianist Finghin Collins.

Schumann’s Märchenbilder, op. 113 (Fairy Tale Pictures), and Brahms’s Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, op. 20, were beautifully played, though one sometimes sensed a bit of insecurity in softer, slower movements. Stumm seemed most at home in strong movements with virtuosic passagework, where the abundance of power at her disposal could be put to full use. Bright Sheng, whose new string quartet was under review just last week, originally composed The Stream Flows Forth for solo violin, but it was offered here in a transcription for viola. With Asian folk-style portamenti, the work is phrased in a long, long twisting and turning line that never breaks. After moments of booming sound, the work died away with mysterious portamenti in harmonics.

Other Reviews:

Daniel Ginsberg, Jennifer Stumm (Washington Post, December 20)
In brief remarks, Stumm described Britten’s Lachrymae (Reflections on a Song of Dowland), op. 48, as a unique set of variations followed by the theme, a sad love song by Dowland. After the diverse sequence of variations, Stumm gave an emotional rendering of the modal, lamenting song. Pianist Finghin Collins was best in Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, where his mannerisms and somewhat blurred sound were minimized. This work won second prize in the 1919 Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge competition behind Ernst Bloch’s Suite for Viola and Piano. Clarke’s writing at times is reminiscent of both Debussy’s splashing colors and the plaintive tunes of Vaughan Williams (one of her supporters) and Stanford (one of her teachers).

As in the earlier works, Stumm seemed more confident with virtuosic material, though she had a tendency to sway left and right in slower bits, somewhat dissipating her energy. Stumm’s encore, The Donkey and Driver, was a hoot. The descending octave (or two) figure represented well the voice of an exasperated donkey, as did Stumm’s retuning of her lowest string (C) for the donkey’s last bray. Kudos to WPAS for targeting and supporting such promising artists at crucial points in their careers.

You must wait until 2008 for the next WPAS classical concerts: recitals by the Artis-Quartett Wien (January 11, 7:30 pm) and pianist Adam Neiman (January 12, 2 pm), both at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.

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