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Margo Kline: Duo of Brey, O’Riley Double the Fun at Lobero

The cellist and pianist team up for a dynamic evening of sonatas

Cellist Carter Brey and pianist Christopher O’Riley brought works by Richard Strauss, Francis Poulenc and Frederic Chopin to the Lobero Theatre on Wednesday night in a program of sonatas for the two instruments.

The artists appeared under the auspices of the Community Arts Music Association, with support from the Esperia Foundation, and earned hearty applause. Brey was front and center, by virtue of the chosen music; O’Riley was an empathetic, supportive voice at the piano.

The first selection was Strauss’ Sonata for Cello and Piano in F Major, Opus 6, written when the composer was just 18 years old. The son of Germany’s formidable horn virtuoso, Franz Strauss, the young man went right over into modernism after his first few years of composing.

This sonata still reflects the Romantic influence of composers such as Felix Mendelssohn, but it has its “modern” moments — especially in the third and final movement, allegro vivo. Richard Wagner was abroad upon the land, and young Strauss was certainly aware of him.

Poulenc came along 40 years later, and echoed Strauss in his nonacademic approach to composing. He enjoyed a certain amount of popularity and continued to follow his own muse. A veteran of World War I and a few weeks of World War II, Poulenc found himself in Occupied Paris in 1940, no longer in uniform and left to weather the German occupation. It was then that he began sketches for his sonata for cello and piano. The work, in spite of his painful circumstances, is mostly light and lyrical.

After intermission, Brey and O’Riley returned to play Chopin’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor, Opus 65. This work was written in 1845-46, when Chopin’s health was already perilously frail. It was performed in public by Chopin and his friend Auguste Franchomme, a renowned cellist of the time, in February 1848, less than two years before Chopin’s early death. Like much of Chopin’s music, it has an underlying melancholy that is touching.

Brey and O’Riley have toured together for some 10 years, and clearly enjoy an easy rapport. In Wednesday evening’s concert, as noted, Brey was well to the fore. For those in the audience who revere cello virtuosity, it was where he belonged.

The duo performed one encore after enthusiastic applause, a transcription of Margaritki (“Daisies”) by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

O’Riley, as noted, kept a lower profile but supported the cello in masterful style. This program focused on lesser-known works. Perhaps another time, Brey and O’Riley will perform music from their popular recordings, such as the tangos of Astor Piazzolla.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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