San Diego Symphony concertmaster Andres Cardenes made a stunning first impression in his local solo recital debut Sunday evening at San Diego State University. Since he joined the orchestra at the opening of the current season, he has soloed in a Bach Violin Concerto, but Sunday's recital gave an opportunity to hear him in a variety of styles from Handel to Copland.
Cardenes' most winning attribute is his sterling tone--well-focused, supple and uniform. His sound is between the more voluptuous, but frequently rough-edged, Russian school and the overrefined, computer-generated perfection cultivated by the current generation of Oriental violin virtuosi.
Poised and confident, Cardenes channeled his formidable technique into warm and spontaneous musical communication, even though it was evident that he and pianist Karen Follingstad had worked out their program in meticulous detail. A new member of the SDSU music faculty, Follingstad proved an ideal partner, mirroring Cardenes' circumspect phrasing, sensitive dynamic contrasts and elegant clarity of line.
Most insightful of the evening's fare was the duo's lyrical, ingratiating interpretation of Copland's neoclassical Violin Sonata (1943). To mitigate the work's structuralist tendencies, they turned its abstract contrasts into a genial conversation.
However pleasing Cardenes' suave legato in the Copland may have proved, it sounded slightly anachronistic in Handel's D Major Sonata. Of course, a Baroque sonata with piano accompaniment is already a compromise--a transcription of the original harpsichord and cello continuo to the piano--but Cardenes' conservative ornamentation and overly long phrasing had too many Romantic overtones for this reviewer's taste.
In Beethoven's venerable "Kreutzer" Sonata, Op. 47, the piano part frequently threatens to overtake the violinist, and in SDSU's homely, acoustically antiseptic Smith Recital Hall, Follingstad and the bass-heavy Bluethner occasionally drowned out the violinist. Cardenes redeemed himself and his fiddle, however, sailing through the finale with admirable panache and a genuine symphonic sweep. Moments in the minor mode sections of the variations movement were subtly crafted and profound in their impact.
In this evening of violin sonatas, Manuel de Falla's "Suite populaire espangole" provided a welcome respite. And Cardenes' flair, as well as his evident delight with this lighter, folklike idiom, never bordered on indulgence.
The duo played to a full house and rewarded their enthusiastic audience with a Kreisler bon-bon, his "Tempo di Menuetto." Both Follingstad and Cardenes will be heard Sunday night in Smith Rectal Hall in a completely different program with the Mirabel Piano Quartet.