Review by Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News 9:33 AM on Jul 24, 2023:
This year’s Basically Beethoven Festival is on a roll
Violinist Chloé Trevor and pianist Alex McDonald gave vivid performances of Beethoven and Stravinsky.
For the third week in a row, the Basically Beethoven Festival had a winning concert Sunday afternoon. This time, the performers were violinist Chloé Trevor and pianist Alex McDonald, both of whom have roots in the area. Both have degrees from major conservatories and mix performance and teaching careers. McDonald is also artistic director of the Basically Beethoven Festival, a series of free Sunday afternoon concerts presented each July by the Fine Arts Chamber Players.
A pre-concert “Rising Star” performance was given by harpist Kathleen Hopkins, a student at the Juilliard School in New York.
The Trevor/McDonald concert had a lively opener in Stravinsky’s Suite italienne, six movements the composer arranged for violin and piano from his orchestral score for the ballet Pulcinella. Even the ballet music is a set of arrangements, gently spicing up tunes from the Italian baroque.
Trevor and McDonald gave toe-tapping music sure-fingered assurance and plenty of panache. The “Tarantella” and “Scherzino” dazzled, but the lyricism of the “Serenata” charmed.
From my seat on the right side of Moody Performance Hall, the piano sometimes overpowered the violin, as it occasionally did in the Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata. But a violinist friend sitting in the balcony said balances were fine.
The Beethoven sonata acquired its nickname from its dedication to the violinist and composer Rodolphe Kreutzer. But this dedication replaced the original one, to another violinist who first played the piece (badly) and then angered Beethoven by insulting a friend. Kreutzer didn’t like the piece, though, and never performed it.
The sonata’s dramatic effects tempt one to connect it to Leo Tolstoy’s lurid novella The Kreutzer Sonata, but the latter wasn’t penned for another 86 years. The opening sets a sober, even tragic, mood, and much of what follows in the first movement feels profoundly agitated. Anxieties are pretty much dissipated in the finale, but isn’t there something a little hyper in its skippings and scurries?
Trevor and McDonald delivered all this with great flair, playing up the contrasts, but elsewhere tapering motifs and phrases with great subtlety.
In Hopkins’ recital it was odd to hear Handel’s B-flat major Harp Concerto (Op. 4, No. 6, also existing in a version for organ) without accompanying strings. It came off surprisingly well, with nimble technique, although at the bottom of Hopkins’ wide dynamic range some quiet notes disappeared. The slow movement was rather romanticized.
She was very much at home in Féerie: Prélude et Danse by the French harpist and composer Marcel Lucien Tournier. (The title is French for “fairy.”) Dating from 1912, this is sensuously evocative music in impressionist style. Hopkins beautifully spun out its dreamy tendrils of sound and gave the “Dance” the gentlest spring in its step.