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Rodland Debut at Weill Recital Hall

New York Concert Review, Summer 1997

Edith Eisler

Presented by Artists International as the sole winner of its Viola Award, Carol Rodland made her New York debut at Weill Recital Hall on April 6, 1997. A native of New Jersey, she studied at the Juilliard School in New York with Karen Tuttle, also serving as her assistant, and with Kim Kashkashian at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg, Germany. At present, she is on the faculty of the Musikschule Hanns Eisler in Berlin and has been performing in Germany as soloist and chamber music player. She is an excellent violist, at home in every part of the fingerboard with ease, security and impeccable intonation, and possessor of a warm, resonant tone that remains pure in all registers. Her technique is solid and reliable but so unobtrusive that one takes it entirely for granted; she never uses it for show, only as a tool for musical purposes. Though expressive and involved at all times, she seems to have the most natural affinity for calm, lyrical music. Her excellent pianist, Rosemary O'Connor, was a splendid collaborator, able to change seamlessly from a supporting to a leading role. With the piano almost closed, she never overpowered the viola, and indeed was sometimes too discreet. The two players are obviously frequent partners, their ensemble and rapport are close and unanimous. The varied, substantial program encompassed music of many styles. Its novelty was the world premiere of Flow, My Tears for viola alone by Christopher Theofanidis, written for Carol Rodland in 1997 "in memoriam" for Jacob Druckman, the composer s mentor, who died in 1996. Thogh conceived as a elegy, it sounded belligerent rather than lamentatious; its most pervasive characteristic seemed to be long upward slides, executed at different speeds, to hit very high notes with stabbing attacks. These tricky maneuvers required shooting all the way up the fingerboard, climbing over the side of the rather large viola and down again; Ms. Rodland handled them with admirable skill and without losing either continuity or quality of sound. The program opened with Vaughan Williams' Suite for viola and piano, a predominantly calm piece with a typically English pastoral character: even its final dance movement does not get really sprightly. The playing underlined its expansiveness and lyricism. Hindemith's Sonata Op. 25, No. 4 for viola and piano, is a great piece, but less familiar than his popular Sonata Op. 11, probably because its motoric, abrasive corner movements make it harder to bring off and to listen to. The slow middle movement, however, is heart-breakingly beautiful and also seemed closest to Ms. Rodland's own feelings. Schumann originally wrote his three Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73 for clarinet, and also transcribed them for cello. The viola arrangement is based on the clarinet version and works very well. The playing brought out the tenderness rather than the ardent urgency of the first one, but the third had fire and exuberance. Brahms Sonata Op. 120, No. 1, also originally written for clarinet but often heard in the viola version, was very good. Both players fully identified with its moods, from the brooding somberness of the first movement, the radiant serenity of the second, to the increasingly joyful brightness of the last two. Most of the changes and transitions came off well; I missed only a few subtle details and inflections. The encore was a jazzy little piece based on Gershwin's I Got Rhythm by a member of the audience. The house was filled to overflowing, the atmosphere glowed with warmth, responsiveness and pride; clearly, these two players have the large, enthusiastic following they deserve.