Music : Mastery on a Sunday afternoon
The blue sky and sun became paintings framed in the long windows of the Old Whaling Church. This past Sunday was a day to be outside, and still, at 4 pm, people in pastel golf shirts, designer cardigans, bike shorts, sandals, all wandered in slowly and ambled down the aisles between the pews. They chose this seat then moved to that seat. Alone and in couples they held brief reunions, those returning from winters in warmer climes with those reappearing after Island hibernation.
Finally, when about 80 were gathered, Dr. Gerry Yukevitz, president of the board of Vineyard Playhouse, the organization hosting the performance fundraiser, welcomed everyone, promoted the Playhouse season, and promised the afternoon would be memorable: "It's going to be gorgeous," he declared. His word was kept.
The mastery of the two award-winning musicians - internationally recognized cellist Sebastian Bäverstam, and acclaimed Russian-born pianist Constantine Finehouse - formed an enthusiastic and appreciative coalition of those attending.
The contrast between the two musicians contributed to the success of their impressive collaboration: Mr. Bäverstam, a prodigy at seven, is at 19, all elegance, finesse, and well-channeled emotion; and Mr. Finehouse, 11 years older, displays grace without flourish, and demonstrates commanding technical authority.
The two first performed together when Mr. Bäverstam, a native of Newton, was a 14-year-old student at New England Conservatory's Preparatory Division and Mr. Finehouse, having returned home to Boston after graduating from Yale University, found occasion to accompany him.
Sunday's two-hour concert was a tightly constructed blend of classic and impressionistic traditions, presented in a way that educated one to the similar nuances and lyric qualities of each. The program was bookended with traditional selections, sonatas by Beethoven and Brahms, that were held separate by the contemporary works of Hungarian composer Kodaly Zoltan (1882-1967), and Boston composer Tony Schemmer, who was present at the Whaling Church.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
It began with Beethoven's plaintive and romantic "Sonata No. 4 in C major" for cello and piano. Mr. Schemmer's 2006 lush and sweeping "Romanza," with its rich cello narrative followed. Next came the drama and intensity of Zoltan's 1915 "Sonata for Violoncello Solo, op. 8," a piece that showcased the complexity and extraordinary range of the cello, and the virtuosity of Mr. Bäverstam. The closing selection, Brahms's "Sonata No. 1 in E minor" for cello and piano, combined all the elements, showcasing each musician's distinctive gifts.
And the audience was emphatic in demonstrating their pleasure, bringing the musicians back for a charming encore from Mr. Schemmer's pop opera, "Phaust." Mr. Bäverstam and Mr. Finehouse were joined by violinist Olga Kachanova in a composition derived from the "Spinning Song."
At the reception following the performance, Mr. Bäverstam (who candidly admitted he didn't remember performing here with his family ensemble when he was six), and Mr. Finehouse, both seemed relaxed and instantly at ease. Mr. Finehouse explained that they "grow into a piece together," adding that their musical collaboration was a combination of intuition and intellect. "We learn it together. We come from the same place," he added. "Good music is good music."