“Today we’re having a big party,” shouted Geoff Nuttall as he strode onstage to get the Chamber series’ final program going. And quite a fun party it turned out to be (though it ended too soon), with three pieces of blithe and celebratory spirit — and even an interactive sing-along session.
First up was Niccolò Paganini’s amazing “Moses Phantasy” Variations on a Theme by Rossini, a frisky confection originally written for violin and piano and intended for the composer’s own use (he was the rock-star fiddler of his day).
The legend — no doubt fabricated — behind the piece was that Paganini (who was also alleged to have sold his soul to the devil) composed the piece while imprisoned, and all of his violin strings but one broke, forcing him to write the piece to be played on a single string. Here we heard it in a transcription for cello and piano, and performed by cello goddess Alisa Weilerstein and piano prince Inon Barnatan. Even in its cello version, Weilerstein played the entire number on just one string. Quite a challenge, given its fearsomely virtuosic nature. After introducing the lovely and songful theme, she totally blew us away with speedy runs, treacherous arpeggios, sparkling trills, etc. as she took us through the variations. This one was all about the cello. Barnatan’s piano part was quite plain and simple by comparison, but he still played it well.
- Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
- Tyler Duncan performed