Dvorak's Sonatina shines bright

By Jeremy Eichler
Globe Staff / June 5, 2009
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ROCKPORT - The Rockport Chamber Music Festival opened its new season last night at the Rockport Art Association, probably for the final time. For many years the galleries have served the festival well, but its future lies a short walk up Main Street, where foundations have recently been laid for a new seaside concert hall, the Shalin Liu Performance Center. Of the total $20 million budget, $4.5 million remains to be raised, but festival organizers say they are confident that the hall will open next June with the festival's 29th season.

The space, which will have 325 seats and views of the ocean, should be a highly welcome addition to the performing arts landscape of Greater Boston. To be sure, it will allow the festival much more freedom and flexibility to expand and diversify its summer programming and create a higher profile in the community the rest of the year. The big question is what the festival will do with this newfound freedom.

In the meantime, the current Rockport classical season displays its familiar mix of veteran performers and young rising ensembles. For opening night, violinist William Preucil and pianist (and Rockport artistic director) David Deveau offered a recital of works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Debussy, and Mendelssohn.

Preucil has spent most of his career as an orchestral concertmaster, currently with the Cleveland Orchestra, though he is probably best known to chamber music fans as a first violinist of the widely admired Cleveland String Quartet, which disbanded in 1995. His teachers included mid-century greats Josef Gingold and Zino Francescatti, and his playing at its best combines a clean and muscular technique with something of the Old World panache displayed more often by earlier generations of players.

That attractive combination of qualities was present in last night's performance, but not as forcefully or as consistently as one might have wished. It took Preucil - and Deveau, too - considerable time to settle into Mozart's F-Major Sonata (K. 376), and their reading remained fluid but unremarkable. Likewise their generally rewarding performance of Debussy's Violin Sonata seemed to leave deeper levels of nuance, color, and atmosphere unplumbed.

The night's most persuasive music-making came in Dvorak's Sonatina, with its bright melodies and vigorous folk-flavored string writing, and in Mendelssohn's F-Major Violin Sonata, with its adagio handsomely shaped by Deveau and its outer movements driven by Preucil with immense energy and virtuosity. A delicately spun adagio by Tartini was the perfect encore.

Jeremy Eichler can be reached at

ROCKPORT CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL William Preucil, violin; David Deveau, piano

At: Rockport Art Association, last night

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