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Barnatan-Ferschtman-Weilerstein Trio

06.02.08
Inon Barnatan
Washington Post

The Library of Congress closed out its chamber music season with a bang Saturday, as three world-class musicians, still in their 20s, joined forces for a memorable all-Schubert evening. Pianist Inon Barnatan and violinist Liza Ferschtman, apparently making their local debuts, were joined by cellist Alisa Weilerstein.

The evening's undisputed star was Barnatan, who opened with the C Minor Sonata (D. 958). He displayed the widest variety of touch and dynamics that I've ever heard from the library's aging, balky Steinway. From barely audible, feathery trills to heaven-storming thunderbolts, Barnatan orchestrated every phrase with sovereign mastery. Though sometimes a little too sensitive to Schubert's harmonic divagations, pulling back the tempo more than necessary for the secondary key areas, this was still fine musicmaking wedded to astounding technique.

The high point was the Fantasy in C, D. 934. No music was on hand for either Ferschtman or Barnatan, for one of the longest, most difficult duos ever written. I'd never seen this feat attempted anywhere, and the performance was extraordinary at all levels. Ferschtman's intonation was not infallible in the variation section, but the unanimity between the artists, down to the tiniest nuance, was almost eerie. It was a true tour de force of ensemble playing.

The E-flat Trio, D. 929, clearly had less rehearsal than the fantasy, and here Barnatan did not sufficiently scale his sound to the ensemble. But the impassioned, seat-of-the-pants performance brought down the house.