Elmar Oliveira gives spirited recital for Community Concerts at Second
It has been quite a while since I've seen Elmar Oliveira in performance -- longer than I realized. The last time, he had hair.
Oliveira, the first and still only American violinist to earn a gold medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition (in 1978), was in town Sunday to give a recital for Community Concerts at Second. This was the organization's annual benefit to help support its otherwise free series of events at Second Presbyterian Church. The value of those many free concerts each season cannot be overstated.
In a sonata-dominated program with pianist Robert Koenig (equally bald, by the way -- not that there's anything wrong with that), Oliveira demonstrated that his technique remains basically secure, his musicality refined. He hit a peak in Prokofiev's Sonata No. 1, a work that packs in a remarkable amount of drama and poetry. The violinist made much of the eerie, whispery flurries that suggest icy winds over a doomed landscape in the outer movements, and dug powerfully into the volatile scherzo. This is deep music, provocative music. Oliveira and Koenig made it ...
A pair of A major sonatas by Mozart and Schubert passed by pleasantly, if without a great deal of charm and nuance. Those qualities were in abundance from both players, though, for the closing group of short pieces. The F.A.E. Scherzo by Brahms had lots of dash and fire. Two charming Heifetz transcriptions rounded things off, Rachmaninoff's Daisies and Ponce's Estrellita, both delivered quite stylishly, recalling a very different era from our own. Oliveira's tone had a delectable sweetness, his use of portamento was natural and elegant. A wonderful tribute to the Heifetz, still the gold standard of the violin world.
In case you never heard Heifetz play Daisies, I've appended a video filmed late in his career:
PHOTO OF ELMAR OLIVEIRA BY TUCKER DENSLEY COURTESY OF SCHMIDT ARTISTS INTERNATIONAL, INC.