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Works Made on the Wings of Inspiration

05.05.10
Cho-Liang Lin
The New York Times

Vivien Schweitzer

Deadlines, poverty and ambition have long been motivating factors for composers, as for many artists. But according to the program book for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s concert at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday afternoon, the featured works were not driven by prosaic concerns but composed “on wings of pure inspiration.”

Dvorak was inspired to write his Sonatina in G for Violin and Piano (Op. 100) after visiting Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota, where he is said to have scribbled a melody on his shirt cuff; he used it in the Larghetto. The work, which Dvorak composed for two of his children (aged 10 and 15), weaves echoes of folk tunes and black and American Indian songs into its four movements. The pianist Jon Kimura Parker and the violinist Cho-Liang Lin played it graciously and with considerable charm.

Paul Schoenfield, in his engaging Sonata for Violin and Piano, which received its New York premiere on Sunday, also draws on various strains, like jazz, pop music and folk traditions. The four movements — “Intermezzo,” “Vanishing Point,” “Romanza” and “Freilach” — deftly encompass Gypsy fiddling, a Transylvanian wedding song, Baroque counterpoint, snippets of Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and dance hall music.

The harmonically rich “Intermezzo,” an elegiac violin melody, elegantly played here by Mr. Lin, unfolds over low, dissonant rumblings in the piano. Mr. Lin and Mr. Parker performed the often virtuosic piece with commitment, finishing with a bang in the propulsive “Freilach.” (The Yiddish term denotes a joyous song or dance.)

William VerMeulen, on French horn, joined Mr. Parker for Schumann’s cheery Adagio and Allegro in A flat for horn and piano, a short work written during a healthy and productive period in Schumann’s life. Mr. VerMeulen fumbled a few of the more difficult passages but otherwise offered a spirited performance.

The program concluded with Brahms’s Trio in E flat for horn, violin and piano, written during a working holiday in Baden, a spa town near Vienna. The musicians offered a nuanced performance, and Mr. Parker played with particular sensitivity in the opening of the third-movement Adagio.