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Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 6 in A, Op. 30, is part of a set of three sonatas written in 1802 with a title page that states “Three sonatas for the pianoforte with the accompaniment of a violin,” a clear indication as to the central role of the keyboard. At the keyboard for this performance was Lukas Geniusas, the 21-year old virtuoso in Greensboro this weekend to launch the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra’s 2011-12 Season. Playing “second fiddle” to the pianist was GSO Music Director, Dmitry Sitkovetsky. Those familiar with Sitkovetsky know that he would succeed in making the violin an equal partner in the proceedings.
More classical than romantic and more elegant than passionate, the three-movement work clearly points to Mozart as the model. The two performers played the opening cheery Allegro with true partnership, trading the rapid passagework with the more legato lines. The slow middle movement (Adagio) initially had Sitkovetsky spinning out long-winded melodies over Geniusas’ jerky rhythmic figures; then the roles were reversed. The serious middle section of this movement provided contrast. The final movement is a theme and variations on a folk-like tune. Having heard Geniusas play a Chopin concerto the night before with the GSO, I was delighted to find that he is also a fine chamber player — an excellent collaborator, always attentive to sharing and communicating with his partner. Sitkovetsky, as usual, played with impeccable taste and refinement.
Geniusas delighted the audience with some music not on the written program — the first and last movements of the 3rd Chopin piano sonata. And why not, since last year he garnered a prize from the Chopin International Piano Competition. Both movements are virtuosic to the extreme, something that the pianist appears to revel in. His impressive powerful playing contrasted perfectly with his refined lyric playing; beautiful shading and magnificent tone quality, very much in evidence in this work, are certainly among this pianist’s strongest assets.
The evening concluded with Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat, Op. 47, penned in 1842, the year the composer devoted to chamber music. Joining Geniusas and Sitkovetsky were Dianne Phoenix-Neal (viola) and Beth Vanderborgh (cello). This four-movement work has been accused of being too “piano centric;” I actually would have liked a more forceful voice from Geniusas. Surprisingly, intonation was an issue through most of the movements — from top to bottom.
The first movement begins with a slow, mysterious introduction that bursts into a joyous Allegro; for the record, some stormy moments do appear. The elfin second movement owes much to Schumann’s friend, Felix Mendelssohn. The heart-rending slow movement features a tune of exquisite beauty — all musicians get a chance to shape this gem. The exuberant finale featured fleet fingers of all four, ending the evening in good spirits.