St. Mary's School's Smedes Parlor is one of Raleigh's most congenial venues. It's larger than typical residential parlors of bygone days, but it is welcoming, comfortable, attractively appointed, and offers good acoustics. The director of the Smedes Parlor concerts does wonders with her limited budget, offering free concerts by distinguished local artists and occasional visitors. She also routinely features young artists, as on November 16, when violinist Maia Cabeza, 11, and pianist Andrew Tyson, 17, presented an outstanding program.
We are often asked why we review young musicians and if there is any significant difference in our approach to covering them, as opposed to seasoned professionals. The answer to the first part is simple enough, since today's young musicians represent our collective hopes for the future of the art. The second part is trickier, since the point is, generally, to encourage.... But on this occasion, the playing was of such high quality that no critical weaseling is required.
Tyson, a student of UNC's Thomas Otten, got things underway with a pair of Scarlatti sonatas. He's played in public a lot, given his age, and he's won many prizes already, but solo work is different from concerti, and these short, charming pieces gave evidence of his ever-increasing prowess as a keyboard technician and an interpreter, too. He was an able and adept partner for Cabeza, a student of UNC's Richard Luby who, like Tyson, has already drawn several favorable notices in CVNC. Together they offered a movement from Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 4 that was meltingly beautiful. If one closed one's eyes, one would have imagined great, world-class artists.... This is not mere hype: the playing was in every respect superb — and remarkable by any standard. She played Joachim's cadenza with flair, and the rest of the selection was every bit as impressive.
Tyson then took up Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata. We don't hear much piano music by Prokofiev, although Randall Love recently played portions of Visions fugitives for a dance program at Duke. The sonata given by Tyson has all the hallmarks of the composer, including heartfelt slow sections and a bravura finale, and his playing was, well, breathtaking.
Shorter works consumed the second half of the program. Cabeza gave glowing performances of the Prelude and Gavotte from Bach's E Major Partita, S.1006, and of Paganini's 16th Caprice. Tyson plumbed the emotional depths of Ravel's "Un barque sur l'ocean," from Miroirs. And together they offered Sarasate's Introduction and Tarantelle, Op. 43, which brought down the house, in a manner of speaking. The pieces in this part of the program sometimes turn up as encores, but that's ok, for they made for compelling listening, they demonstrated once again the high skills of the players, and they gave immense pleasure. At the end there were smiles all around — from the delighted audience and from the obviously pleased young artists. Bravo!