by Anthony Kershaw
Nov 29, 2012. Walter Hall, Toronto, ON — Equity is a concept difficult to achieve in musical performance. A solo line, a selfish conductor, a diffident soloist, a second orchestral player unwilling to subdue the tone in deference to the Principal (or vice versa), the stories are endless and appear nightly. Not so, yesterday afternoon in Toronto.
Duo Concertante is a Canadian violin/piano duet and is both a married and musical partnership based at Memorial University, Newfoundland. They pride themselves on playing repertoire that balance both instruments as soloist and accompanist. The repertoire they chose for the second concert of the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto Recital Series emphasized the ‘duo’ — great sonatas by Mozart, Schumann and Beethoven with ‘Wild Bird’ by Canadian, Murray Schafer added for a different musical flavour.
Violinist Nancy Dahn and pianist Timothy Steeves are so committed to the idea of the Duo format they don’t add personal biographical details in their well-written notes. Just information about the duet. A quick web surf revealed that Dahn is a New England/Juilliard grad and that the majority of study for Steeves was in Germany. Both are expert instrumentalists. And, in keeping with the equity theme, are equally able.
Dhan possesses a lovely tone with a wonderful bow arm — Steeves commands the keyboard; he creates a wonderful balance between hands, this shown to great effect in the opening and solo passages of Beethoven’s incredible ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata. The Mozart/Beethoven sonata bookends of the recital were played beautifully — both players know how to wring every bit of drama out of the works. They are especially good at opening declamatory statements, heard to great effect in both sonatas.
The Schumann Sonata was new to me. What a wonderful work. And, Duo Concertante played the shifting rhythms for all they were worth with the large audience enjoying their efforts.
‘Wild Bird’ was also new to me and Duo Concertante performed it brilliantly. To be fair, the ‘equity’ in this piece (originally for violin and harp, arranged by Steeves for violin/piano at the suggestion of the composer) was a little askew in Dahn’s favour. She was brilliant — evocative, flawlessly in tune with the work highlighting her extended techniques.
Sure, there were a few minor ensemble slips in this very demanding program, but as a whole, Dahn and Steeves emphasized the collective. And, what a musical collective it is. St. John’s is lucky to have such excellent musicians and mentors in its university.
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Sonata in B-flat for violin and piano, K. 454
2. R. Murray Schafer – Wild Bird
3. Robert Schumann – Sonata in A Minor for violin and piano, Op.105
4. Ludwig van Beethoven – Sonata No. 9 in A Major for violin and piano “Kreutzer”, Op.47