Legato Arts presents Maria Prinz in Review

Legato Arts presents Maria Prinz in Review

Maria Prinz, Piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
May 13, 2016


A large audience greeted Bulgarian-born pianist Maria Prinz, who offered an ambitious program that never strayed from her stated strengths and love for the Austro-Hungarian core repertoire: mature Haydn, late Beethoven, late Schubert—even the contemporary work was Austrian.

The recital was full of paradoxes for me however: someone with such obvious affection and affinity for this music yet lacking the “world-class” fingers and memory to render it without many slips; a keen poetic, lyrical sense yet one that led to rhythmic distortion beyond the pale of emotion and/or spontaneity; a good understanding of the phrasing and grammar of the period yet often with an oddly wooden sound, and many notes in chords not sounding, imperfectly voiced; and some doubtful analytical connections made in her program notes. Perhaps I was just not on her wavelength, but I could not shake these thoughts while listening.

Haydn’s great E-Flat major sonata (Hob. XVI:52) opened promisingly, with wit and crisp articulation, even when the fingers were not cooperating fully. The loveliest movement, captured very well by Ms. Prinz, was the second movement Adagio in the remote key of E major. Here her sense of quasi-improvisation suited the music perfectly.

Beethoven’s quirky two-movement E minor sonata, Op. 90, suffered from a lack of liveliness in its first measures, coupled with a rhythm that never really got off the ground. Descending scales don’t always have to have the first note lengthened before precipitously rushing downward. The Schubertian rondo in E major was graceful, though not really well-sung by Ms. Prinz. The piano tone was dull, and she didn’t observe many of the subito pp indications that give it its charm. When the repeating melody finally appears in the left hand, it was insufficiently projected, drowned by the figures in the right hand. I’d like to suggest to her that the Schubert that this movement most resembles is his late Rondo in A major, D. 951, which Alfred Brendel states was “obviously” modeled on the Beethoven.

After intermission, she tackled the first of Schubert’s last three sonatas, the C minor, D. 958. This harrowing, death-haunted music still sounds as threatening, even with its few flashes of Viennese charm, as it must have in 1828. It is Schubert at his most Beethovenian, with its virtual quotation of the descending bass line of the 32 Variationen, WoO 80, perhaps prompted by the death of Beethoven the preceding year. Again, the 3/4 rhythm of the first movement was violated right away in the first measure. I can understand a “romantic” approach to Schubert, but not to this extent. There was insufficient contrast from the ppp to the ff requested by Schubert. The slow movement had a lovely interior quality that revealed the lonely prayer-like affect and the violent tremblings of the diseased composer. The Trio section of the Menuetto captured the Ländler spirit perfectly, with vaguely ominous shadows never far away. In the finale, the longest in Schubert’s music, the tempo was not as terrifying as befits a dance of death, although the episode in which the Erlkönig sweetly lures the protagonist was beautifully played.

Ms. Prinz then played the Moto bravouroso composed by her late husband, Alfred Prinz, a clarinetist with the Vienna Philharmonic for fifty years. If he began when his bio says he did, he would have been fifteen (!). This work was in a dissonant but conservative style, sounding at times like the Swiss composer Frank Martin. Ms. Prinz brought the authority and force only she could to this touching tribute.

Her first encore, Mozart’s D minor Fantasy, K. 397, contained the loveliest playing of the evening. Ms. Prinz’ unity with the music and the style were perfection. She followed that with another paradox: a clangy rendition of Schubert’s A-Flat major impromptu (D. 899, No. 4) that was short on genuine cantabile, and with the same left-hand melody issue that marred the Beethoven for me. I do appreciate Ms. Prinz’ devotion to this core repertoire, and hope she realizes that this is just one person’s opinion.

MidAmerica Productions presents: Romance: German and French Romantic Music for Flute and Piano in Review

MidAmerica Productions presents: Romance: German and French Romantic Music for Flute and Piano in Review

Romance: German and French Romantic Music for Flute and Piano
Patrick Gallois, flute; Maria Prinz, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
March 6, 2014

MidAmerica Productions is one of the busiest concert presenters in New York, indeed worldwide. In my experience, their concerts are always on a high level and their audiences substantial. Weill Hall was almost full for this recital, no small accomplishment for an instrumental recital in which the performers are not household names. The concert focused on that most beloved musical era, the Romantic period. The first half was focused on German music and the second half, French. The stated goal, according to the program notes, was to “bring listeners to explore another atmosphere in another world.”

First we heard Three Romances, Op. 94, by Robert Schumann. Originally written for oboe, Mr. Gallois, needed to change only a few notes to make them work for the flute. These pieces were presented by Robert to his wife Clara in 1849 as a Christmas present. These lovely “songs without words” no doubt made a hit with their recipient. As we are reminded in the distinctly romantic program notes written by Ms. Prinz, Robert and Clara Schumann’s relationship was ”one of the most famous love stories in music history.” These exquisite, tuneful pieces remind one of Robert Schumannʼs Lieder and could probably be successfully performed on any treble instrument. The second, in the major mode, is especially beautiful. All three were given a sensitive and shapely performance.

The remainder of the first half was devoted to Carl Reineckeʼs Undine Sonata, Op. 167. In addition to being unquestionably “romantic” in style, this piece is distinctly programmatic. Undine was a water spirit who fell in love with a human, was betrayed by him, gave him a fatal kiss and then returned to the water. In the first movement the waves and undulations of the water were clearly depicted in the flute line, played with limpid fluidity by Mr. Gallois, and by the arpeggiated chords in the piano, sensitively executed by Ms. Prinz. The sparkling second movement begins with rapid staccato notes in the flute (Undine is getting excited!) followed by dotted rhythm of the piano (the knight has arrived!) The third movement is a beautiful love duet, played with great feeling by Mr. Gallois and Ms. Prinz. Then, in the fourth movement, the Sturm und Drang of betrayal and retribution are portrayed in rapid scale passages and diminished seventh chords. At the end of the piece we return to the rocking 6/8 meter of the first movement as, like a good Rhine maiden, Undine returns to her original home.

After intermission we heard a lovely Romance, Op. 37, by Camille Saint-Saëns. The flute’s tender melody was played beautifully, and its rapid scales and octave passages were tossed off with aplomb. Next we heard Charles-Marie Widorʼs Suite, Op. 34. The beautiful third movement, entitled Romance, was captivating, and the technical challenges of the finale were deftly managed by both performers. Its second movement is evidently a most effective Scherzo, as it elicited delighted chuckles from the audience.

The last piece on the program was Gabriel Piernéʼs Sonata, Op. 36. Originally this piece was written for violin, however it is often performed on the flute. Indeed, the original sheet music mentions that it can be played by either instrument. During this work, the flute was sometimes overbalanced by the piano, especially towards the end. Perhaps this problem would have been alleviated if the lid of the piano had been moved to the short stick. The lid was fully open for the entire program, but there were no balance problems in previous works.

The audience was obviously enchanted with everything Mr. Gallois and Ms. Prinz did and rewarded them with fulsome applause. The encore was Maurice Ravelʼs “Kaddisch,” from the composer’s Deux Mélodies hébraïques. Originally written for voice and piano, the voice part was transcribed for flute by Mr. Gallois.



The 20th Century Concerto Grosso CD in Review

The 20th Century Concerto Grosso
Chandos Records: CHAN 10791
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner, conductor
Maria Prinz, piano; Karl-Heinz Schutz, flute; Christoph Koncz, violin;  Robert Nagy, cello
Maria Prinz with Sir Neville Marriner and musicians ((Flute, Violin and Cello) from the Vienna Philharmonic

Maria Prinz with Sir Neville Marriner and musicians ((Flute, Violin and Cello) from the Vienna Philharmonic


An extraordinary recording entitled The 20th Century Concerto Grosso has been released on the Chandos label, and it is a must for all those who treasure brilliant playing and rarely heard compositions of high craftsmanship and originality. Quite a bit of the music here even reaches “catchy” status and should be included on one’s playlist for perennial listening. With today’s technological trends in music streaming, featuring many options such as Spotify, Pandora and ITunes, the memorability factor is what general audiences care about most. In other words, will they listen to it again and again or only once?

Although these lesser known works aren’t officially given the Baroque title ”Concerto Grosso” by their composers, like Bloch did with his famous Concerto Grosso No. 1 of 1925 of the same period, they serve the same purpose as the Concerto Grosso musical form did by producing an engaging dialogue between an intimate solo group with a larger ensemble. These works were all written in the 1920’s by three talented Europeans- Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff, Austrian Ernst Krenek, and French composer Vincent D’Indy. These  composers have more than a time period and a musical conception in common; they were all unfortunately affected by the Third Reich or anti-Semitism. Schulhoff perished in the Wülzburg concentration camp in 1942. Krenek was frequently labeled as Jewish by the Nazis and his work branded as Entartete Musik. He immigrated to the United States in 1938 after the Anschluss. D’Indy, on the other hand, was a confirmed anti-Semite who actively promoted Richard Wagner’s ideology.

D’Indy, like Wagner, was a despicable person whose music transcends the man. Even though D’Indy’s character makes him the odd man out here, his music belongs with the other concerti on this album. His Concert, Op. 89 (1926), for Piano, Flute and Cello with String Orchestra is not only unique and of a high compositional level, but its Neo-Baroque strands are very accessible to those who want tunes to linger in the musical memory, as it pays more homage to the 18th century form than the other two composers on this recording. Stravinsky’s earlier Pulcinella (1920) or Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances (1917 and 1923) immediately come to mind. The music’s humor is palpable, and one walks away humming the tunes with real joy. This composition belongs in the standard repertory alongside the famous Stravinsky and Respighi works. The second most memorable composition here is Schulhoff’s Concerto doppio, WV 89 (1927), for Flute, Piano and String Orchestra with two horns. There is more 20th century dissonance here a la Stravinsky, Bartók, Bloch and Prokofiev. The work is at times danceable and consists of greatly contrasting moods. One can’t help ponder about what might have been had his life not been tragically cut short.

Ernst Krenek is not unknown in the music world. His popular opera Jonny Spielt Auf, which premiered in 1927, made him a star in Europe. It is most inspiring and original, employing jazz elements and multi-cultural influences. His Concertino, Op. 27, written in 1924, is most original in its use of harmony, phrase and rhythm, but has angular, expressionist melodic material that sometimes feels random and uninspired. There are still elements to enjoy, such as the energetic interplay between soloists and orchestra, and the high quality of the playing here.

The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner is amazingly polished and energetic in this unknown, difficult material. Pianist Maria Prinz plays virtuosically, devotedly and poetically in all three works. Flutist Karl-Heinz Schutz plays with remarkable beauty and precision, and violinist Christoph Koncz and cellist Robert Nagy play with extraordinary passion and refinement. The acoustic sound of this recording is first rate-natural and brilliant at the same time. One feels as if they are present in the hall with the players.

Kudos to  Ms. Prinz and Sir Neville for bringing this music, and the links regarding these three composers, to our attention.

CD in Review: Patrick Gallois, flute; Maria Prinz, piano

CD Review: Patrick Gallois, flute; Maria Prinz, piano
Mozart Violin Sonatas K.376, K.377, K378, K 570 arranged for flute and Piano by Patrick Gallois
Naxos 8.573033; Playing time 74:33 ; Recorded at Casinio Baumgarten, Vienna, Austria June 4-6, 2012
Producer, Engineer and Editor: Jens Jamin
Patrick Gallois, flutist  and Maria Prinz, pianist

Patrick Gallois, flutist and Maria Prinz, pianist

The Baroque period is rich in solo flute music.  The two greats, Bach and Handel, each wrote several sonatas, and many of the lesser geniuses contributed as well.  In the Romantic period, Schubert favored the instrument with a set of virtuoso variations and the French wrote reams of tuneful and often showy pieces.  In the twentieth century many of the most prominent composers, among them Prokofiev, Bartok, Poulenc, Hindemith, Piston, and Ibert wrote solo flute music.  And today’s composers love the flute.

The Classical period is a different story.  Unless the flutist has an orchestra at her (or his) disposal to play a Mozart concerto, she will find almost nothing.  Enter Patrick Gallois. Mr. Gallois, a prominent French flutist and conductor, has skillfully transcribed four Mozart violin sonatas, K.376, K.377, K. 378, and K. 570, for the flute.  At the age of eight, Mozart wrote sonatas that could be played by either flute or violin, as was common practice in the Baroque era.  This is the precedent for Mr. Gallois’ adaptations.

The lovely Sonata K.570 has a different history from the other three works.  In 1789, Mozart entered this work into his list of compositions as a solo piano sonata. In 1796 It was published posthumously by Artaria as a sonata for piano with violin accompaniment. Subsequent scholarship has concluded that this was not Mozart’s intent, although the arranger is not known.

For the most part, the flute is well suited to these genial, accessible compositions.  A few changes have to be made.  As the violin’s range goes a third or a fourth below that of the flute (depending on the flute,) there are some octave transpositions. The flute is more powerful in its high register than when playing lower notes. The notes in the first octave are just not very loud.  This is not the case with the violin, and for this reason it often behooves the flute to play in a higher octave in order to balance the piano.  Where the violin plays double stops, the flute plays arpeggios.  These changes do not impinge on the musical effectiveness of the pieces.

Unlike most flute sonatas these pieces do not give both instruments equal importance; the piano is the more important member of the duo.  Indeed, the sonatas are referred to in some editions as piano sonatas with violin accompaniment. Maria Prinz is a fine pianist who plays with style and verve, always vital but never overpowering her partner. Mr. Gallois has a lovely sound, beguiling phrasing and especially clean articulation. No doubt many flutists and fans of flute music will find great pleasure in this new addition to the repertoire.

MidAmerica Productions presents “Vienna Meets Paris” in Review

MidAmerica Productions presents “Vienna Meets Paris”
Patrick Gallois, flute; Maria Prinz, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall; New York, NY
March 4, 2013
Patrick gallois and Maria Prinz

Patrick gallois and Maria Prinz


French flutist Patrick Gallois and Vienna- based pianist Maria Prinz combined their talents in a program called “Vienna Meets Paris”, the first half dedicated to Vienna, and the second half, Paris. Their no-nonsense manner upon entering the stage reflected the lives of busy professionals, but from the first sterling tones it was obvious that this was going to be something memorable.

Opening with Mr. Gallois’s arrangement of the Sonata in F major, K. 376 of Mozart, the duo gave notice that they were one with this piece, which one might expect as they have recently recorded this work for Naxos (http://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.573033). Ms. Prinz, who has collaborated with other prominent flutists, never allowed her playing to become overpowering, even though the piano was on the full stick.  It is also a credit to Mr. Gallois that he projected his playing with such ability that he was never in any danger of being covered.  Mr. Gallois has a full-bodied tone that sings and soars, but never allows any overblowing. He also has an assured technique that allows him to make short work of difficult passages. It was an auspicious start.

Beethoven’s National Airs with variations, Op.105 and Op. 107 were commissioned by the Scottish folk-song collector and publisher George Thompson. A Schüsserl und a Reindel, Op. 105, No. 3 and St. Patrick’s Day, Op 107, No. 4, were featured. As per the request of Thompson (“You must write the variations in a familiar, easy, and slightly brilliant style, so that the greatest number of our ladies can play and enjoy them”), Beethoven gives the pianist the bulk of the difficulty in some brilliant writing. Even “easy” pieces can be dangerous, but Mr. Gallois did not fall into this trap. He played with finesse, adding his own touches of brilliance, while Ms. Prinz’s star shone brightly in what really are piano works with flute added. Ending the first half, three Schubert songs, Gute Nach, Das Fischermädchen and Ständchen, as transcribed by Theobald Böhm (1794-1881). Böhm, who can be considered the father of the modern Western flute and the corresponding fingering system still In use, did for the flute what Liszt did for the piano in his transcriptions of these songs.  Mr. Gallois and Ms. Prinz played these songs with flair, but also with sensitivity.  It was a thoughtful and melodious departure from Vienna.

The second half took the listener to Paris with three works by French composers written explicitly for the flute. Philippe Gaubert (1879-1941) wrote in the style of his great contemporaries Franck, Debussy, and Ravel.  His Sonata for Flute and Piano No. 2 is unmistakably impressionistic in its tonal form and written with idiomatic detail that one would expect from one so familiar with the flute. Mr. Gallois captured the singing lines, the magical, and the mystical with what seemed to be the greatest of ease. This is not at all surprising considering the connection Mr. Gallois has with this work. The baton has been passed through the generations when considers the musical genealogy – Gaubert to his student Marcel Moyse to his student Joseph Rampal, to his son Jean-Pierre, to Jean-Pierre’s student Gallois.

La merle noire (The Blackbird) from Olivier Messiaen followed. Written in 1952 as a test piece for the Paris Conservatoire, this short composition was one of Messiaen’s earliest works to use the concept of notated birdsong, which was a life-long fascination of him. Mr. Gallois captured the warbling element with great imagination, and both he and Ms. Prinz conveyed its dizzying effects in a captivating performance. The Sonata for Flute and Piano by Francis Poulenc closed the program. This work is among the best-loved and most frequently performed works in the flute repertoire. It was composed with Jean-Pierre Rampal in mind. In his memoirs, Rampal mentions a phone call from Poulenc- “Jean-Pierre,” said Poulenc, “you know you’ve always wanted me to write a sonata for flute and piano? Well, I’m going to, “he said. “And the best thing is that the Americans will pay for it! I’ve been commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation to write a chamber piece in memory of Elizabeth (Sprague) Coolidge. I never knew her, so I think the piece is yours.”  Brimming with brilliance, this work is vintage Poulenc, and a successful performance requires a player who can “do it all”. Mr. Gallois brought out the bursts of optimistic energy with confidence in the first movement, the longing, wistfulness of the second movement, and the joyous whimsy of the “off to the races” finale. Ms. Prinz was with him every step of the way. Played with élan, it was a winning performance. Encores followed, of which I especially liked the “Meditation” from Massenet’s Thaïs, played with delicate beauty.

A final thought – it was particularly striking how synchronized Mr. Gallois and Ms. Prinz were throughout. It was as if they were of the same mind, a “mind-meld” that found them in perfect ensemble without any visual contact or physical cues such as nodding.  I have seen other duos that had excellent rapport, but this was truly something above and beyond the norm.  This is a pairing that has unlimited potential if they decide to continue as a duo.

Flury-Prinz Duo in Review

Dieter Flury, flute
Maria Prinz, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
March 5, 2012

Flury-Prinz Duo


In a concert sponsored by MidAmerica Productions, the Vienna Philharmonic’s Principal Flutist, Dieter Flury, was paired up with Bulgarian pianist Maria Prinz. It was a program dedicated to the 150th Anniversary of Debussy’s birth, and it contained two works written by the master: “Syrinx” for solo flute, and an arrangement of his “L’Apres Midi d’un Faune” by the Russian flutist and composer, Nikolay Ivanovich Platonov. “Syrinx” was given a beautifully shaped account; expressive and atmospheric. “L’Apres…” was given fine continuity of the work’s perfect architecture. The middle section, where the tempo is more driven and playful, was performed with more than a few missed notes in the piano part. Yet it was the music’s endearing serenity that made the lasting impression.

The Bach Sonata in B minor, BWV 1030, contained some lovely give-and-take of the musical line. In general, Flury played lightly, with horizontal phrasing that gave the music direction, and Prinz played more vertically, giving each note more equal attention. Balance was good; thankfully, the piano was on the short-stick, and one could hear all the flute lines throughout the entire concert. On many other occasions in this hall, I have heard the piano drown out the flute, so kudos to Prinz for her awareness to balance. Perhaps it was her cautious type of playing–a sensitivity to the flute’s vulnerability to the weight of the piano sound–that caused Prinz to play without much musical phrasing.

Prinz and Flury played perfectly together throughout the program, with excellent ensemble at all tempo changes. Flury has excellent rhythm and played with clarity throughout the program. His intonation is stellar as well, although at times, I wish his tone was more robust. Prokofiev’s masterful Sonata in D Major, Op. 94, received an excellent interpretation, one with smooth transitions, smart pacing and admirable cohesion of musical ideas. The classic scherzo had a wonderfully catchy tempo; unfortunately, Prinz had a difficult time with some of the passage-work in this movement.

In Milhaud’s Sonatina for Flute and Piano, there were lovely nuances of tempo, and the character of the music was infectiously playful. Enescu’s “Cantabile et Presto” from 1921 needed more dynamic range and contoured phrasing. It seemed that many passages within the forte dynamic started at a moderate sound and ended the same way. There were some nice subito pianos, but that wasn’t enough to always show the arch of the music.

In an encore, Faure’s “Fantasie”, Op. 79, Flury gave an outstanding virtuoso performance with a brilliant technical display. The second encore was Debussy’s “Le Petit Negre”, arranged from the original for solo piano. The work is somewhat jazzy for Debussy, but the piano playing did not swing on the syncopations; the short notes and the long notes had equal amounts of finger pressure, thus the beats and off-beat syncopations were heavy and sounded the same.

There was a full-house of flute enthusiasts in the hall; this was a worth-while celebration –not only of the flute–but of the master, Claude Debussy, who knew the instrument better than most.

Dieter Flury, flute and Maria Prinz, piano in Review

Dieter Flury, flute
Maria Prinz, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
February 12, 2011

Dieter Flury and Maria Prinz; Photo Credit: Johannes Ifkovits

In this program, entitled “Viennese Classics for Flute and Piano,” Bulgarian pianist Maria Prinz and Swiss flutist Dieter Flury proved that you do not have to be born in Vienna to love its musical traditions. In her program notes, Ms. Prinz wrote that having lived and worked in the city of musical dreams for 25 years as “foreigners” has given them enough familiarity with, and enough distance from, the style to balance emotional involvement with objectivity.

 Mr. Flur, in addition to appearing with other leading orchestras, has been solo flutist of the Vienna Philharmonic since 1981; Ms. Prinz, besides enjoying a successful solo career, has taught at Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts since 1987. The high expectations raised by these credentials were not disappointed. Both players proved to be complete masters of their instruments; Mr. Flury played on a golden flute whose radiance was matched by its warm, round, shimmering tone; Ms. Prinz was an exemplary collaborator, leading and supporting with equal sensitivity and, with the piano on the small stick, never too loud. The only flaw in their performance was their penchant for exaggerated phrasing and overuse of dynamic contrast, as if they trusted neither the music nor their own expressive playing to speak directly to the audience.

The first hint of these tendencies came in the program’s opening work: Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat major, K. 378, originally for violin and piano. Every repeated figure turned into an echo, and in the first movement, Mr. Flury fell prey to the problem of dealing with the transition from the first to the second theme, making a huge ritardando where a slight hesitation would be more effective;. The Sonata works well on the flute, especially the bright Finale, and Mr. Flury also captured the expressive intensity of the passages in the darker register.

 The concert included two unfamiliar works by Beethoven: a set of Variations, Op. 107 No. 7, and a Sonata in B–flat major without opus number. The variations bear the unusual title “For piano with the accompaniment of a flute,” but in fact the instruments act as equal partners. The Theme is a melancholy Ukranian folksong that was also used by Hummel in his Trio for flute, cello and piano. Doubts have been raised about the authenticity of the Sonata, and, indeed, while some of its themes and their development could well belong to his early period, others seem to point to less distinguished authorship.

Haydn’s Sonata for flute and piano No. 8 in G major is a transcription of a transcription: its original source is Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 77, No. 1; Haydn himself arranged it for violin and piano, omitting the Minuet and Trio. In the flute version, Mr. Flury simply played the violin part, and, since the piece is sunny and high-spirited, the transformation was very successful.

The program closed with that popular staple of the flute repertoire, Schubert’s Introduction and Variations on his own song, “Trock’ne Blumen” from the cycle “Die schoene Muellerin,” D.802.  Written at a time late in his life when he was experimenting with combining intimate chamber music with technical fireworks, it demands a lot of virtuosity from both performers; it concludes with a jaunty March, but, being based on a slow, mournful song in a minor mode, its lyrical, singing element predominates. The highlight is a variation in major whose beauty and simplicity stop the heart. The two players’ deeply expressive performance left no doubt of their love for the music. Though they displayed plenty of brilliance when appropriate, even the bravura variations never became mere showpieces. In response to the sell-out audience’s enthusiasm, they played an encore: Mozart’s lovely C major Andante, announced by Mr. Flury as “Maria’s favorite.”

Denitsa Laffchieva, clarinet; Ofer Canetti, cello; Maria Prinz, piano

Denitsa Laffchieva, clarinet;
Ofer Canetti, cello;
Maria Prinz, piano
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
February 11, 2010

Three musicians from different corners of the world, Maria Prinz from Bulgaria; Denitsa Laffchieva from Bulgaria—but residing in London; and Ofer Canetti from Israel, converged recently to perform a program of Debussy, Strauss and Zemlinsky. The concert was presented by MidAmerica Productions. Each musician impressed in different ways, not always complementary to one another, but ultimately providing a stimulating evening to their large audience.

Opening with Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie for clarinet and piano, Prinz provided a gently colored backdrop for Laffchieva’s silky, elegant clarinet sound. Both players managed the challenges of the work with grace and ease overall, though this listener somewhat missed the sensuous abandon heard in favorite performances. Perhaps simply living with the work a bit more would help. It’s also possible that placing the piano lid on the half-stick (it was on full) might have rendered pianistic details less constraining to the clarinetist.

Ofer Canetti joined forces with the versatile Ms. Prinz in Strauss’s Sonata, Op. 6. This was a full-bodied and impassioned performance. Canetti is a powerfully communicative young musician of strong temperament and technique. Some slipping of the endpin at the beginning seemed ready to derail things, but he drove it into the floor with force (from a height and with a loud thud) and continued. One was at first surprised by this harpooning exhibition, but with a player as naturally expressive and unselfconscious as Mr. Canetti, such matters may unfortunately escape consideration. Unfazed, he dove deeply into the work, projecting each nuance with sensitivity, while keeping a firm grip on the larger structure. Prinz ably held her own with her demanding part (made more so by some unruly page-turns). A piano on half-stick and more regular collaboration will bring them to an even higher level.

The second half consisted of the Zemlinsky Trio, Op. 3, a challenging, Brahmsian work that requires a special advocacy to pull it off. It seemed under-rehearsed here; despite some beautiful solos passed between clarinet and cello, there was some groping in the dark for the music’s shape and direction. The third movement of the Brahms Op. 114 Trio was played as an encore, and the performance made one wish that that trio had been played instead of the Zemlinsky.