By Mary Ellyn Hutton, Cincinnati Post music writer
Violinist Tatiana Berman and pianist Anna Polusmiak might as well give in. They are a publicist's dream.
It's not just their names, Tanya and Anya, which are likely to stick. Nor their twentysomething youth, drop-dead good looks and similar cultural backgrounds. (Berman is from Russia, Polusmiak from neighboring Ukraine. Russian is their common language.)
They simply make beautiful music together.
Berman and Polusmiak, who made their ensemble debut at Covington's Cathedral Basilica in November 2005, paid a return visit Sunday afternoon.
It was bitterly cold outside - 18 degrees and windy with flurries - but the rows of poinsettias left over from Christmas and the light filtering through the lofty stained glass windows made it warm and inviting inside. So did the program, which spanned Mozart, Brahms and Messiaen to the present.
The opener, "Reverie," written for Berman by the young English composer Michael Csanyi-Wills (a U.S. premiere), made a soft-edged, angular ascent from low on the violin's G string to the highest reaches of the instrument with pinpoint accuracy. It was a treacherous way to begin a concert, but Berman's precision seemed to obviate any need to "warm up."
The work's meditative beginning and ending enclosed a gentle but more agitated middle, where Polusmiak's touch matched the lightness of the violin.
She and Berman made music with a capital M in Mozart's Sonata in E-flat Major, K.380, a collaboration marked by taste, nuance and an unforced, classic sound. Their smallest ritards meshed congenially, and Berman applied her vibrato like a sculptress, shaping exquisite lines in the soulful Andante and highlighting pertinent details. Heard in the crowd during the cheerful Rondo were a few soft "Mom's" from Lea Järvi, Berman and husband Paavo Järvi's three-year-old daughter.
A highlight of the recital was Messiaen's Theme and Variations, an early work (1932) somewhat in the spirit of his famous "Quartet for the End of Time." Ten minutes long, it combines the composer's innovative impulse with his steadfast Roman Catholic faith. The theme is unconventionally shaped, with a timeless, unresolved feel, and the variations are capped by an exalted finish that seems to touch heaven. Polusmiak made some real fireworks in the third variation, which merged with the fourth into a thrilling transition to the final "Tres lent," where Berman soared over pealing chords by Polusmiak.
Brahms' D-Minor Sonata, Op. 108, got a lovely reading that could have used a bit more fire in the first movement. Berman is a meticulous player, exquisitely musical with technique in spades, and can afford to take risks. She and Polusmiak put real personality in the third movement (a scherzo), and it was good to hear them "let go" in the Presto finale, where a lightning quick page turn near the end did not deter Berman in the least.
Tatiana performed Romances for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 40 and 50, by Beethoven with Pärnu City orchestra in the David Oistrach Festival.
Quote from an article about this performance.
"Soloist in the Beethoven was Tatiana Berman, a sporting collaborator in rehearsals and an exquisite performer in concert."
The program was repeated Monday, May 15th, as part of Encore! Linton at the Congregation Ohav Shalom, 8100 Cornell Road, Cincinnati, Ohio.