Casting a tall, dark and handsome concert cellist–who’s also charming on stage and a sweet guy off– in a movie? Look no further than Amit Peled, the Israeli cellist and Peabody faculty member with a fast-growing career. In his terrific Cellobration recital (also the title of one of his CDs, although a different program and pianist) last night in the Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theater at Symphony Space, he was joined by the fine pianist Dina Vainshtein in a varied program (Eccles, Schumann, Britten, Beethoven, and Tsintsadze). As the cellist friend who accompanied me to the concert pointed out, Amit is beautifully set up (musician-speak for a well-functioning physical relationship with the instrument and way of using his body) with a fluid, easy technique. His impetuous, energetic, Romantically-spontaneous playing incorporates daring rubati as well as a wide range of dynamics and tone color. Playing a terrific, recently-built Wolfgang Schnabl cello, Amit drew a large sound that helped make up for the dry acoustic of the hall. He really owned the program, too, playing everything from memory with conviction and a risk-taking aliveness that was the opposite of a sterile, careful, let’s-make-sure-everything-is-perfect approach.
Classical performers are starting to speak to the audience more, which many audiences enjoy but can easily go wrong. Amit does it very well, with a charmingly friendly stage presence, strong voice that needed no amplification (mumbling is a major pitfall), and well-prepared, succinct remarks that avoided rambling (my own tendency) without seeming stiffly formal (which can defeat the purpose of connecting with the audience). He and Vainshtein began with the Henry Eccles Sonata in G Minor, which, as he explained, is played by nearly every eighth-grade or younger cellist, but is rarely included on professional programs. It was great to hear in post-middle-school hands, especially once I turned off my mental historically-informed-performance-practice listening circuit and enjoyed it in Amit’s very personal, Romantic style.
The Schumann Fantasiestücke (Op. 73) and Beethoven A Major sonatas are pieces I’ve played a lot, and once you have your own interpretation it’s hard not to find yourself internally objecting to someone else’ very different approach. I haven’t played Britten’s Suite No. 3 for Cello Solo, though, and found Amit’s performance captivating in its dramatic intensity and shifts of mood. It’s now on my cello bucket list. And Sulkhan Tsintsadze‘s Five Pieces on Folk Themes is as well. Amit told us it was more-or-less forced on him be a friend last fall, and which he discovered (to his surprise) he loved when he finally tried it (them?) out around Christmas. Very entertaining showpieces, perfect for ending a traditional varied-program recital. A very free performance of the Bloch Prayer was the encore.
So it was a night off from unconventional programming and/or performance spaces for me. I thoroughly enjoyed attending a good old-fashioned cello recital by a important young cellist.