« Morgan State University Choir wows them in China | Main | Centennial of Peter Pears a welcome reminder of English tenor's contribution to vocal art »

June 21, 2010

Up close with cellist Amit Peled in Frederick, courtesy of piano store

Downtown Piano Works, which occupies a corner building on S. Market St. in Frederick opposite where Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in 1862, presents a classy, monthly series of free concerts in a very intimate room seating 65 people. (Think Baltimore's An die Musik, only smaller and without plush chairs.) The ambitious and generous series has been going strong for about a year and a half now, offering a substantial roster of artists, many of them heard regularly in more famous venues.

I finally got a chance to sample the action at Downtown Piano Works on Friday evening, when Amit Peled, the exceptional cellist and Peabody faculty member, gave a recital with pianist Dina Vainshtein. It proved well worth the drive, even if the program was just an hour long (not complaining, mind you -- I've become increasingly fond of short concerts).

Peled, recently featured in a performance of Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the BSO, is a commanding musician in tone and temperament. Hearing him up close reconfirmed those attributes in a big way.

Beethoven's A major Sonata, Op. 69, got quite a workout. It's possible to emphasize elegance and refinement in this piece, to keep tempos in check, and leave a great impression. Peled went for the bold instead, digging into the music with considerable expressive fire. He and Vainshtein pushed things along to bracing effect (the piano lid was up all the way, adding to visceral impact of the performance).

The well-matched players balanced the Beethoven with a remarkable rarity, a work

by 20th century Georgian composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze: "Five Pieces on Folk Themes." The bittersweet opening song and endearing "Nana" movement allowed Peled's lyrical side to bloom eloquently, while the virtuosic movements, especially the colorful, cello-only, pizzicato "Chonguri," were delivered with elan.

For an encore, there was the slow movement from Chopin's Cello Sonata, which inspired exquisite phrasing from Peled and beautifully nuanced support from Vainshtein.

The recital afforded an opportunity to judge Peled's new cello, a rich-toned Schnabl instrument recently made for him in Germany. The cellist, who usually plays on a highly-prized Guarneri, joked that this was the first time he gave a recital where the piano was was more expensive than his cello.

Peled did a lot of joking, by the way, in remarks to the audience; he's a funny guy. His amiable and inviting personality is exactly the type everyone says we'll need more of if classical music is to survive.

Here's a sample of Peled's artistry, taken from a recital a few years ago -- the gorgeous slow movement of Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata: 


Posted by Tim Smith at 8:03 AM | | Comments (0)

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
View the Artsmash blog

Baltimore Sun coverage
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Marin Alsop
Famous faces in classical music
Sign up for FREE entertainment alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Most Recent Comments
Stay connected