Tannery Pond Benefit Concert: Sebastian Bäverstam, cello, and Yannick Rafalimanana, piano, play Kodály and Franck

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Yannick Rafalimanana, pianist, and Sebastian Bäverstam, cellist. Photo Michael Miller 2012.
Yannick Rafalimanana, pianist, and Sebastian Bäverstam, cellist. Photo Michael Miller 2012.

Tannery Pond Benefit Concert
May 5, 2012
Sebastian Bäverstam, cello
Yannick Rafalimanana, piano
at the home of Lois and Chris Herzeca

Cello Sonata, Op. 8 (1915) by Zoltán Kodály
César Franck, Violin Sonata in A Major, arranged for cello

The summer festivals of the Berkshires and Hudson Valley are to a large extent about young artists. Some festivals, like Tanglewood, Marlboro, Jacob’s Pillow, Shakespeare & Company, Yellow Barn, and Norfolk, are basically music schools or have an educational institution as a core adjunct. Marlboro and the Tanglewood Music Center focus on musicians who have just completed their conservatory work and are ready to begin their professional careers. Others, like Music Mountain, offer courses for adults and students. The benefits cut both ways: young musicians, actors, and dancers get to perform, and audiences get to hear fresh talent and new insights. Young professionals are a vital part of Tannery Pond’s program. Both Christian Steiner, the Artistic Director, and Leslie Teicholz, President of the Board, believe in working with young talent, through Young Concert Artists or other agencies. This summer violinist Paul Huang has been selected for a summer recital, but Tannery finds other ways to include young artists. Each year there is a benefit concert featuring young musicians. The past two years it has been held at the home of Lois and Chris Herzeca in New Lebanon, New York, where the Tannery Pond Yamaha spends the winter months. Last year it was the young Russian pianist, Gleb Ivanov, a YCA member, as is Ran Dank who will play with Todd Palmer and Elizabeth Futral on September 1. This year the Swedish cellist Sebastian Bäverstam played together with the French pianist Yannick Rafalimanana.

Sebastian Bäverstam, 23, has enjoyed quite a lot of exposure already. A student of Paul Katz at the New England Conservatory, he has played at the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, the ASCAP awards at Lincoln Center, the Théatre des Champs Elysées in Paris, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie. He has won the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Concerto Competition, performing the Shostakovich Concerto with the BSO at Symphony Hall, as well as the 2009 Concert Artists Guild International Competition. This year he will open the season of the Rising Stars series of the Ravinia Festival, where he also spends the summer of 2012 as a member of Ravinia’s renowned Stearns Institute. He is clearly well on his way into a splendid career. Yannick Rafalimanana is a student of Vivian Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory. Previously he studied with Alain Raës at the Conservatoire de Lille. He plays with the Trio La Plata and has often performed with Mr. Bäverstam.

Bäverstam opened the hour-long concert on his own, with the Cello Sonata, Op. 8 (1915) by Zoltán Kodály, whose collaboration with Bartók in researching Hungarian folk music was apparent enough in the work. He wrote it in response to Bach’s solo cello works, which were just becoming better known at the time. He required for the two lower strings to be tuned down a semitone. On the surface, it is a virtuosic display of Hungarian musical idioms, including gypsy sounds and tunes; structurally it is unified by recurring intervals and motifs. Bäverstam gave a free, passionate performance, which recalled earlier generations of soloists. He encompassed rich, leathery bass notes from the tuned-down strings and a blazing high register. The work and his playing were musically substantial as well as a virtuosic excursion in national color.

Rafalimanana joined him in the second and final work, the cello arrangement of Franck’s violin sonata, the only one made during Franck’s lifetime with his approval. There is no end to the popularity of this work, and it has been arranged for a great variety of instruments. Paula Robison played it on the flute at the New England Conservatory last fall (reviewed here). The beauty of these arrangements is that they all bring out different aspects of Franck’s writing in this durable, but refined chamber warhorse. While Bäverstam continued in his fiery, but technically perfect mode of playing, Rafalimanana supported him with a thoroughly sympathetic, but helpfully more grounded accompaniment, not that he wasn’t perfectly capable of meeting the cellist’s Romantic excursions with equal intensity. They had a natural, responsive way of playing together, and, when I asked them if they’d played together much, they answered enthusiastically in the affirmative. In Rafalimanana’s hands the Tannery Yamaha sounded nicely proportioned to the domestic interior. He is another talent to watch.

The young musicians provided a thoroughly mature and satisfying recital — no qualifications necessary.

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