The second Mosher Guest Artist Recital of the Music Academy of the West’s 2015 Summer Festival will feature the celebrated young cellist Alban Gerhardt in collaboration with Santa Barbara’s own Natasha Kislenko on piano in a concert at 8 p.m. Thursday in Hahn Hall on the Music Academy campus.
Gerhardt and Kislenko have selected a richly Slavic program consisting of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello-Piano Sonata in D-Minor, Opus 40 (1934), Sergei Prokofiev’s Cello-Piano Sonata in C-Major, Opus 119 (1949) and Zoltán Kodály’s Cello-Piano Sonata, Opus 8 (1910).
Obviously, Gerhardt is fearless. Each of these sonatas is a considerable undertaking by itself; to play all three of them in the same evening presents any cellist with a challenge of Herculean proportions. However, I reckon Gerhardt would not have bitten all three off at once if he had any doubts about his ability to chew them, so I will not dwell on the technical aspects that are, in any case, no concern of the music lover.
Inevitably, the Kodály feels less momentous than the other two: He never had to deal with Joseph Stalin — indeed, he had yet to deal with any of the horrors of the 20th century: fascism, communism, economic collapse and two world wars. After a low key, somewhat desultory and impressionistic first movement, the second and final movement takes off energetically and whirls like a dervish.
The Prokofiev is a powerful work, written while his health was failing and he was in disgrace with the apparatchiks. Yet his internal exile served to liberate him. Since he had reason to doubt that his sonata would ever receive a public performance, he pulled no punches. He had all but given up composing when he heard the young Rostropovich play a sonata by Nikolai Miaskovsky. He resolved to write a cello sonata for the brilliant cellist, and he did. It was premiered by Rostropovich and Sviatoslav Richter and was — Prokofiev being Prokofiev still — a triumph.
The Shostakovich sonata, on the other hand, is a youthful, exuberant work, full of extraordinary tunes and dancing rhythms. The composer’s unique blend of irony and lyricism had reached its first peak. The sonata is greatest of its kind written in the 20th century, the greatest since Beethoven.
Tickets to this Mosher Guest Artist Recital are $10 and $55, with those ages 7 to 17 admitted free. For tickets and other information, call 805.969.8787 or click here.