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Stephanie Larsen Cathcart faced her most difficult assignment head on as she opened with Bach's Sonata for Solo Violin in G minor, S.1001. The setting was elegant Smedes Parlor in the main hall on the campus of Saint Mary's School. The difficulty arose from the problem of maintaining audience interest in a work for unaccompanied string instrument. With her uncommon skills and Bach's rhythms she was able to establish the illusion of multiple lines from one instrument.
Playing the piece from memory, the Salt Lake City violinist began with the peaceful Adagio and moved on into the somewhat harsh Fuga movement. Here the mind of the listener was able to imagine the presence of several instruments creating a true fugue. (Could not Beethoven have used this as a point of departure for his Große Fugue?) The Siciliano movement evoked a charming song reminiscent of Sicily and old Italy. Since she had identified her violin as an ancient Thomas Eberle creation, one could imagine the splendid instrument attempting to hark back to its own 1792 Neapolitan origins slightly to the north.
The next number of the evening is variously referred to as Violin and Piano Sonata in G, Op. 30, No. 3 (as in the printed program), or sometimes simply as Violin Sonata (without reference to the piano). But one should remember that Beethoven himself called it "Sonata for Pianoforte and Violin." The composer's title for the work seemed especially appropriate as pianist Milton Rubén Laufer, visiting from the faculty of Peace College in Raleigh, joined the violinist in that test of their mutual virtuosity. This was a true chamber work where the two instruments performed entirely as equals. The Tempo di Minuetto was particularly gorgeous as the piano and the violin swapped the melodies back and forth. Each player was equal to the demands of the familiar and frantic Allegro vivace. (These artists, having collaborated for so surprisingly short a time, seemed skilled enough that one could temporarily forget the standard set by the world-famed Heifetz/Bay duo.)
The program after the intermission was largely concerned with Dvorák's " Romantic Pieces" for Piano and Violin. Both instrumentalists showed consummate skill with these variations on Bohemian songs. Closing the proceedings was "Tzigane" ("Gypsy"), a music showpiece piece by Ravel. While it demanded and received highest levels of virtuosity from both players, it could be plausibly argued that it consisted of more show than music.
The Fine Arts Department at Saint Mary's School consistently shows an astonishing ability to attract superior talent to their fine Smedes Parlor Concert Series. The capacity audience would probably have agreed that this latest combination carried on the tradition.