Philip Lewis,
Artistic Director

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CMI program unites spirit, technique
12:18 AM CDT on Monday October 4, 2004

By OLIN CHISM / The Dallas Morning News
RICHARDSON -- Chamber Music International lived up to its name Saturday night, introducing a remarkable young Hungarian musician as it opened its 19th season in Caruth Auditorium.

The newcomer's name is Barnabás Kelemen, a violinist. He won the 2002 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, which has lent him a Strad once played by the noted violinist and teacher Josef Gingold. It's a commentary on the longevity of great instruments that the one Mr. Kelemen played Saturday was made two years before Bach was born.

Before getting down to serious chamber-music business, Mr. Kelemen and his accompanist, pianist Gustavo Romero, played an old violinist's showpiece, Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, which is based on gypsy airs. CMI artistic director Philip Lewis told the audience beforehand that one of Mr. Kelemen's grandfathers was a gypsy violinist.

Whether or not his genes came into play, Mr. Kelemen gave a sizzling performance that romped right through the piece with impressive technical fireworks and a great sense of joy. As a piece of art, Zigeunerweisen ranks well down on the list, but it sure is fun.

The performance was reminiscent of Antonio Pompa-Baldi's recent recital on the Cliburn Concerts series in Fort Worth, which devoted most of an evening to old piano stunt pieces. Maybe we're entering a new era in which showing off is coming back into fashion.

Any idea that Mr. Kelemen was lacking in substance vanished with Schumann's Piano Quintet in E-flat, in which he played first violin with a group that included Mr. Romero, violinist Paul Rosenthal, violist Susan Dubois and cellist Nathaniel Rosen.

This was passionate music-making that owed its success in part to Mr. Kelemen's skill, musical sense and commitment. He was part of a unified team. Mr. Romero, who plays without mugging or other distracting mannerisms, gave a performance that was three-dimensional and interesting without pushing too aggressively. Aside from some slight intonation problems, particularly at the end of the second movement, the string players gave a first-rate collaboration. The Schumann quintet is doubly familiar to those who attend the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, but rarely are those performances as appealing as this.

The evening opened with Beethoven's Piano Trio in E-flat, Op. 70, No. 2, with Mr. Romero, Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. Rosen. Compared with the Schumann quintet, this was more reflective, with tempos tending to be moderate. The trio's combination of mystery and playfulness was amply reflected in this performance.

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