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Ferschtman, Weilerstein, Barnatan at Library of Congress

The final concert of the Library of Congress’s season featured the impeccable musicianship of violinist Liza Ferschtman, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and pianist Inon Barnatan. All still in their 20s, the trio radiated an earned confidence in an all-Schubert program. The program was centered by the exquisite Fanstasy in C-major for Violin and Piano, D.934.

Given the work's sheer magnificence, it is understandable why Barnatan was so fully invested having committed it to memory. Ferschtman and Barnatan expertly navigated the works four elided movements with full control and planning of phrases, yet without sounding obsessive or overly-cautious. From the soft opening pianistic tremolos and long violin notes, it was clear that the people in the room setting the bar for active listening were the performers. Their intense, multi-dimensional focus of matching the ideal sound from their being to the outcome from their instruments, strikingly compelled the audience to complement the duo’s focus.

Ferschtman’s steady composure with head slightly up and away from her violin, reminded one of the cool poise of Heifetz. Indeed, mannerisms with the head may jostle the ears, thus tragically distorting a performer’s hearing. Ferschtman’s other Heifetz-like attributes – in addition to near technical perfection and detachment from instrument – included the ability to subtly veer on the high side of the pitch, yet always imperceptibly. The experience of the duo – they performed the complete Sonatas of Beethoven at the Concertgebouw a few years back – was in evidence as the they navigated the labyrinth of textures with Ferschtmann at times cleverly providing a bass line for the pianist, Barnatan enjoying gritty chromatic scales in the bass, and octaves of brilliant octaves ascending to the very end.

The program opened with the Piano Sonata in C-minor, D. 958 in which Barnatan offered bounteous nuance. While he had the audience in the palm of his hands in the slower sections, excessive mannerisms in more active bits perhaps limited his power, and over-pedaling at times obscured some of the smaller notes of the right hand. Barnatan sounded best when his nose was out of the keys.

The second half of the concert comprised the Piano Trio in E-flat Major, D. 929, performed with a patient, constantly-sustained motion. It was pleasing to again hear Weilerstein’s resonant instrument after her BSO performance one year ago. The cellist’s perfectly pruned tune in the second movement Andante was profound. In the final movement, Schubert cunningly combines much of the prior material – often charming, but perhaps thin on its own – into a grand display of virtuosity well worth the wait.
Photo by Marco Borggreve
Link to Washington Post Review

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