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MUSIC REVIEW

Violinists Give Recital Series Impressive Start

August 20, 1996|SUSAN BLISS

The third season of the Sundays at Two Recital Series began last weekend with performances by violinists Rodrigo Puskas and Kazuhiro Takagi, both among the winners of the series' newcomer auditions. The young men--who previously have been successful in international competitions--made sparks fly in a program of 19th and 20th century showpieces, but left this listener wishing to hear them tackle more substantive works.

According to series Artistic Director Laura Schmieder, the recitals are intended to mimic a type more common 100 years ago, consisting of many short pieces that might attract a varied audience. Judging by the full attendance of young and old at this free event--sponsored by and held at the Beverly Hills Public Library--that goal was met. Moreover, there is merit to the notion that performers who are still making a name for themselves need to impress quickly.

And impress they did. Hungarian-born Puskas opened with a biting gypsy dance, Ravel's "Tzigane," full of flair and intensity but few colors. Again and again he flashed the contents of a virtuosic bag of tricks, in Franz Waxman's "Carmen" Fantasy and in Ysaye's "Variations on the Themes of Paganini," always demonstrating great security and economy of motion. Only for Kodaly's "Adagio" did the whirlwind pause, achieving dark, overly restrained thoughtfulness, backed with sensitivity by accompanist Valeria Morgovskaya.

Takagi--who, like Puskas, is a student of Eduard Schmieder's at the Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas--snuck in weightier content with Ysaye's Sonata No. 3, for Violin Solo, in a performance striking both for technical accomplishment and emotional effect. Then, he jumped through devilish hoops set out by Wieniawski and Sarasate, without ignoring detail. Through it all, he stopped to paint a sweet-toned vocalise--Schubert's "Ave Maria," in an arrangement by August Wilhelmj.

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