Kashkashian, Levin forma pulsating partnership

Kashkashian, Levin forma pulsating partnership
By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff |

Boston Globe
April 6, 2005

CAMBRIDGE — Violist Kim Kashkashian and pianist Robert Levin made
their first record together more than 20 years ago, and a later disc
won the prestigious Edison Prize, but opportunities to hear them
together in Boston have not been frequent.

Last night the Grammy-nominated violist and Levin played a delightful
and distinguished recital for the Houghton Library Chamber Music Series
in Harvard-Epworth Church. They offered a charming sonata by Hummel —
bel canto for her, aerobic finger workout for him — but the rest of
the program was unusual, all song-cycles in uncredited arrangements
for viola and piano.

Some of the pieces from Copland’s “Old American Songs” and six of
Falla’s “Seven Popular Spanish Songs” sounded like transcriptions,
with idiomatic string writing; in the other cycles by Granados
(a group of “Tonadillas”), Faure (“Poeme d’un jour”), and Debussy
(“Fetes Gallantes”), the violist pretty much stuck to the vocal line.

Kashkashian is pleasantly unassuming in presentation, but she can be
as flamboyant as any opera-house diva when that’s what the music asks
for — she plays with rhythmic life, absolutely in tune, over a wide
dynamic and coloristic range; her wonderful bow arm can communicate
infinitely subtle or boldly declamatory nuances of speech and song. One
wished the program book had printed the texts because she and Levin
seemed to be phrasing to and playing off the unheard words.

Levin, celebrated for his Mozart, is equally assured in French music
and, it turns out, Spanish; from a modest piano he summoned a full
spectrum of attack, articulation, color, and volume. His collaboration
with Kashkashian was vigorously interactive. Whether they were playing
about souls gathering at the river, lullabyes in English and Spanish,
moonlight, love or hate, greeting or farewell, they put us in the
middle of the situation and atmosphere. There was one delicious encore
by Bartok, and if it wasn’t originally a song, it did sing.