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Adcock and Skoraczewski at the Polish Embassy

This review is an Ionarts exclusive.

Cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski
The Embassy Series’ catchphrase is “Uniting People through Musical Diplomacy” – a fitting description for a concert that matched Poland’s most celebrated composer with one of America’s. Saturday night at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, American pianist Michael Adcock and Polish cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski presented a program whose aim was to honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of Chopin and the 100th of Samuel Barber. It was a particularly touching concert considering national tensions in Poland following the loss of 94 Polish lives in Russia in an airplane accident last month, and indeed, the concert was dedicated to their memory. As thoughtfully conceived as the program was, it couldn’t make up for the fact that the Polish Embassy is, unfortunately, a terrible place to hear a concert. The space is quite dry, so much so that their baby grand piano sounds even shorter than it is, leaving not much room for warmth or richness of sound.

Opening the program with Chopin’s remarkable Ballade No. 4, Adcock unfortunately sounded as if he hadn’t warmed up. Perhaps the acoustic and piano were partly at fault, but the sound was thin, and the technical passagework muddled and occasionally messy. He became too affected too quickly in the gorgeous simplicity of the work’s opening, and the singing melodies were dull and ill-voiced. However, as soon as cellist Skoraczewski entered the program for their next work, Nocturne in E♭ major, op. 9, no. 2 (originally for piano), Adcock seemed to become more comfortable with the piano, or to have physically warmed up. His sound was instantly fuller for both the nocturne and the Polonaise brilliante in C Major, op. 3, and complimented Skoraczewski’s rich sound. Skoraczewski’s bel canto qualities and ornamentation were vocal and light. Of course, a cello is even better suited to mimic the human voice than a piano, and this famous nocturne undeniably agrees with the instrument. The musicians closed the Chopin first half of the program with that C major Polonaise brillante, in which the musicians realized their full potential as ensemble players. Their communication was effective, and their playing lithe and sensitive to the goings-on of one another.

The second half, devoted to Samuel Barber, began with two solo piano works, Nocturne, op. 33, and the third movement of Excursions, op. 20. As compared to the opening ballade, here Adcock was much more free and explored a more fertile sound from the piano. Both works, clearly influenced by the sounds (and genres) of Chopin, exploited the rolling and swelling capabilities of the piano and Adcock commendably fulfilled this. For a program that was arguably devoid of so-called “meat” (save perhaps the ballade), for the final work, Sonata for cello and piano in C minor, op. 6, the musicians were finally afforded the chance to really dig in, and did so. The players traveled from moments of Shostakovich influence to the Romantic sounds of Brahms and Chopin with ease. They were excellent collaborators, but, unfortunately, the acoustic made it near impossible to truly enjoy the music. Still though, it was a program with admirable sentiment behind it, and a pleasant evening from the Embassy Series.

The next concert in the Embassy Series season will feature violinist Rodolfo Vieira and pianist Diana Vieira at the residence of the Portuguese ambassador (May 14, 7 pm).

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