On the evening of May 16, a concert thus entitled was held in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater of Raleigh’s BTI Center for the benefit of the SPCA of Wake County. It was organized by pianist David Heid, a recent adopter – according to Mary Turner, the SPCA representative who welcomed the far too small audience for this fine concert that supported a worthy cause.

This reviewer, and some other attendees with whom he spoke, anticipated a thematic recital with music referring, if not entirely to dogs, at least to household pets and other animals, but few of the works presented fell into this category. Aside from this minor disappointment, attendees were rewarded with a series of very fine performances of works, given by outstanding musicians from the local area and beyond.

The evening opened with two scherzi, the first from Schubert’s Sonata in A, D.959, and the second from Sonata No. 2, in E, Op. 54, by Nikolai Kapustin (b.1937), both played by pianist John Salmon of UNCG. The latter, a modern but not dissident piece was particularly demanding; both were well executed. Next up was Schubert’s “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen” (“The Shepherd on the Rock”), Op. 129 (D.965), lovingly presented by Penelope Jensen and Heid of Duke University joined by clarinetist Jane Hamborsky.

This was followed by Rebecca Troxler and Deborah Hollis of Duke playing Bohuslav Martinu’s Sonata No. 1 for flute and piano (1945). Troxler exhibited some truly virtuosic playing in this lovely piece from this grossly underplayed composer; the mood was slightly broken by some inappropriate applause after the first movement. Then cellist Timothy Holley of North Carolina Central University and Heid gave us two contrasting short pieces: Gershwin’s “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” as arranged by Arnold Friedman (b. 1960) followed by Frank Bridge’s “Mélodie.” The first half closed with pianist Kent Lyman of Meredith College offering a fine rendition of Alberto Ginastera’s Tres Piezas, evoking three different regions of the composer’s native Argentina.

Guitarist Randy Reed of Duke opened the second half with two works by Francisco Tarrega: “Capricho Arabe” and what is perhaps the composer’s most famous piece, “Recuerdos de la Alhambra,” both impeccably played, the latter particularly delighting the audience. Heid and Hollis followed this with a stunning, but in no way flashy performance of Francis Poulenc’s bravura Sonata for Piano Four Hands (1918).

Next violinist John Fadial of UNCG, also concertmaster of the Greensboro Symphony, and pianist Andrew Harley, likewise of UNCG, offered a fine rendition of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “African Dances for Violin and Piano,” Op. 58, a trial run, Fadial confided after the performance, for recording a CD entirely of music by this composer that ought to be a real treat based on this sample! The influence of Dvorák and Grieg is readily apparent in the music, which is nonetheless delightful. The announced portion of the program closed with soprano Susan Dunn of Duke and Heid offering two contrasting art songs and one opera aria: Herbert Kingsley’s humorous “The Green Dog” and Edward Horsman’s (1873-1918) parlor-song style “The Bird of the Wilderness,” followed by “Pace, pace, mio Dio” from Verdi’s La Forza del destino, with which her voice filled the hall and brought forth enthusiastic applause from the audience.

As an encore, Dunn, Jensen and Heid offered the always popular and on this occasion particularly appropriate “Meow” song*, which the audience seemed to find the most entertaining work of the evening’s offerings apparently chosen by the presenting musicians solely on the basis of their personal preference or interest, thematic suggestion of the recital’s title notwithstanding.

The simple single 11″ x 17″ folded white sheet printed program gave succinct bios of the performers in addition to the program itself, but no notes about the works or the composers, a couple of whom are quite obscure, and no dates of composition, but one should perhaps not be too exacting since all the participants donated their services.

For more information about the Wake County SPCA, see http://www.spcawake.org/.

*The “Comic Duet for Two Cats,” attributed to Rossini and here enriched with musical references to Schubert and Verdi, from earlier in the program….