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Radio Romania and the Romanian Cultural Institute New York Present “Duel of the Violins” at Weill Recital Hall

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Radio Romania
The Romanian Cultural Institute New York

In Honor of the National Day of Romania

“Duel of the Violins”
Gabriel Croitoru on 1731 Guarneri del Gesù Violin
Liviu Prunaru on 1694 Stradivari “Pachoud” Violin
Horia Mihail on Piano

Weill Recital Hall
(Carnegie Hall Website)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 2, 2016

M. Moszkowski: “Guitarre”, P. de Sarasate: “Zapateado”, D. Shostakovich: “Waltz, Jazz Suite No. 2”, P. de Sarasate: “Zigeunerweisen” (Gypsy Airs), B. Smetana: “My Fatherland”, J. Raff: “Cavatina”, J. Hubay” “Scènes de la csárda – Hejre Kati”, H. Wieniawski: “Polonaise Brillante No. 1”, L. Beriot: “Grand duo for two violins”, A. Piazzolla: “Buenos Aires Winter” (for two violins and piano), “The Romanian Skylark” (Croitoru and Mihail), Dinicu: “Hora Staccato” (Prunaru and Mihail), D. Shostakovich: “5 songs” (for two violins and piano).

After hearing Liviu Prunaru on his magnificent 1694 Stradivari violin, as Concertmaster of the Royal Concertgebouw concert earlier this week in Carnegie Hall’s main auditorium, I was delighted to be invited to review this “Duel of the Violins” concert, also in Carnegie Hall, at Weill next door. Dueling on his 1731 Guarneri violin, was Mr. Prunaru’s Romanian colleague, Gabriel Croitoru, with Horia Mihail rounding out this Romanian trio, on piano accompaniment. I can’t recall enjoying a Weill Hall event this much in years, as each virtuosic turn, in duo or trio fashion, was performed with such mastery, making the music sing. In fact, Mr. Croitoru’s violin did just that in “The Romanian Skylark”, a folk tune. The Guarneri literally created the sound of a caroling woodland lark. The violinist’s stunning skill drew accolades. Mr. Croitoru’s other highlights included “Gypsy Airs” by de Sarasate, with full robust sound from the timeless strings, showcasing unique, individual notes, and “Zapateado”, by the same composer, with vibrant dance motifs. His “Guitarre”, by Moszkowski, was romantically entrancing, and his Shostakovich “Waltz, Jazz Suite No. 2” was imbued with evocative rapture.

Mr. Prunaru’s Stradivari high points were in the purity of his playing the Smetana “My Fatherland”, ending in a feverish flash, and in the Wieniawski “Polonaise Brillante No. 1”, another piece with dance tempos. It seemed to me that the Stradivari’s sound was in a higher register than we heard on the Guarneri, possibly indicating differentiation in strings and design. The Guarneri also seemed smaller in structure. “Cavatina’, by Raff, brought out Mr. Prunaru’s yearning, melodic rapture, and Hubay’s csárda, “Hejre Kati”, was dramatic and textured. Throughout the first two solo violin plus piano segments, Mr. Mihail was professionally poised, creating his own drama and rapture on the keyboard, with scattered, tantalizing solos. Dinicu’s “Hora Staccato” for Mr. Prunaru and Mr. Mihail, performed in the third and final segment, was brimming with rapidly swirling dervish.

Both the Guarneri and Stradivari dueled directly in three works, the first by Beriot, “Grand duo, for two violins”. The three movements were each unique and mesmerizing, allowing the audience to note nuanced contrasts between violinists and their historical instruments. Piazzolla’s “Buenos Aires Winter”, frequently reviewed on these pages, was presented here for two violins and piano. It contained all the mesmerizing, melodic passages that are found in various arrangements, most for a fuller ensemble. Here, celebrating the National Day of Romania, including introductions from the Romanian Cultural Institute New York, we heard inflections of Argentine tango, on centuries-old violins with piano. Shostakovich’s “5 songs”, for the trio, brought forth a bucolic, Russian theme, youthful and upbeat. Kudos to Liviu Prunaru, Gabriel Croitoru, Horia Mihail, and the Romanian Cultural Institute New York for this extraordinary concert experience. And, kudos to Guarneri del Gesù’s 1731 violin and Stradivari’s 1694 “Pachoud” violin, which were both sensational stars of this remarkable event.

And now I will listen to the "Romanian Skylark".

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at