June 4, 2013 at 1:11 AMEvery now and then I need to be reminded of what elevates violin playing to art, and violinist William Preucil did just that on Friday in a recital with pianist Elizabeth Johnson at Paul Hall at The Juilliard School, as part of the Starling-DeLay Symposium on Violin Studies.
Preucil is a consummate musician, with decades of experience as a concertmaster, chamber musician, soloist and teacher. He is the Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra and Professor of Violin at the Cleveland Institute of Music. I overheard several Symposium participants in the audience -- teachers and performers themselves -- say things such as, "What a privilege to hear Bill Preucil play live!"
Indeed it was. His recital opened with Handel's Sonata in D Major, a popular piece that many violinists study, with its placement at the end of Suzuki Book 6. (Incidentally, Preucil recorded the CDs for the most recent revised editions of the Suzuki violin books; his father, William Preucil Sr., recorded the CDs for the viola books.)
Preucil made me hear the Handel anew, despite my own over-familiarity with the piece, having played, performed and taught it for some 20 years. With pure intonation and elegant articulation a given, he sculpted the music into a finely detailed yet cohesive work. I enjoyed the end of the first movement, where he let a musical question hang in the air, then answered it with the timing of a master storyteller. He plays like a violin native, which, of course, he is.
He played the "Adagio Appassionata" by Bruch with drama yet control, old-world Romantic slides and dead-center high notes. What art, with every note considered. When he played the Dvorak Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100 I noticed his wide range of dynamics, with dozens of gradations between pp and ff.
Last was the Violin Sonata in Eb major, Op. 18, by Richard Strauss, and though I know better, I nearly had to be restrained from clapping after the first movement -- the ending was so exciting. Later, in the next movement, he seemed to be able to create silence from music, how does one do that? I had the feeling he was laying all those beautiful details of music-making over a solidly built frame -- don't worry, nothing could go wrong. I didn't worry (rare moment for me), and it was like a trip to the spa, a cleansing of the musical soul. Teachers -- and the room was full of them -- need to hear this kind of playing from time to time. He had an instant standing ovation upon finishing, and when he took his seat to play an encore, we were seated and silent just as instantly. He played Tartini's "Adagio," then after we begged with more clapping for another, he played Kreisler's "Tempo di Minuetto," a piece of music with dignity and warmth.
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