David Hardy, Lambert Orkis and dual-angle Beethoven
The Baltimore area is fortunate in having any number of worthy musical events that are recession-proof, by virtue of bearing no admission charge. Sunday afternoon's free presentation by the Catonsville Presbyterian Concert Series would certainly have been worth paying a good sum for, given the caliber of the players and the way they turned an all-Beethoven program into something as instructive as it was compelling.
David Hardy, who happens to have been born in Catonsville, has been principal cellist of the National Symphony Orchestra for about 15 years. He has collaborated in chamber music with the NSO's principal keyboardist, Lambert Orkis, for about 25 years. All of that familiarity gives their music-making a breathing-as-one synergy.
The two men are in the midst of recording all the Beethoven cello/piano literature in dual fashion -- on period instruments and modern instruments -- and they provided a sample of both on Sunday. On the first half of the concert, with a gut-string cello and replica of a 1788 fortepiano, the duo offered an eventful account of the Variations on a Theme from Judas Maccabeus and the F major Sonata (Op. 5, No. 1). The instrumental coloring from both instruments -- a subtler palette than today's versions -- brought out fresh details in both scores. The lively finale of the sonata found both players digging into the notes to particularly sparkling effect.
For the second half's modern-sound performance, Hardy and Orkis maintained their expressive power and, as in the earlier portion, ensured that all of Beethoven's little dynamic surprises emerged with an extra kick (the resonant acoustics of Catonsville Presbyterian Church helped, too). The players hardly stinted on lyricism, providing some lovely dialogues in the Variations on a Theme from The Magic Flute and a great deal of poetic richness in the Adagio portion of the C major Sonata (Op. 102, No. 1).
I had to head for Shriver Hall for Radu Lupu's amazing recital before the duo played the last item on the program, but I didn't feel at all short-changed. Hardy's burnished tone and finely detailed phrasing left quite an impression (as it does whenever he has solo moments in NSO performances). And Orkis reaffirmed what has long been known -- he's one of the most solid, elegant players in the business.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CATONSVILLE PRESBYTERIAN CONCERT SERIES