Harrell, Parker show is tops; THE BEST: Recital was the most beautiful performance in 20 years.

Lynn Harrell, Cello

REVIEW  |  12.08.08  |  Anchorage Daily News
If you missed the recital by Lynn Harrell and Jon Kimura Parker on Saturday, I grieve for you.

The Anchorage Concert Association-sponsored program by cellist Harrell and pianist Parker should have taken place in a more intimate space than Atwood Concert Hall; but the Discovery Theatre was occupied.

The hangar-size hall was about half full, so the mezzanine and balcony were closed and everyone moved to the main floor for what turned out to be a magical evening by two of music’s most generous souls.

I could write rhapsodically about the warm and sensitive sound of Brahms’ First Cello Sonata, the precision of the counterpoint in its finale and the unity of spirit and rhythm in Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 4, which followed. Either and both were among the cream of performances ever given in our city.

But most who were there will remember this concert for the Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata. Harrell played the slow introduction with a deep sense of meditation; the pair took the main theme a little more briskly than expected but without shortchanging the romantic sweep.

By the climax of the development section, chills were hitting my spine.

Parker’s accompaniment in the scherzo was exceptionally clean, his bell-like fast notes rippling under the long cello tones.

As for the slow movement, I cannot remember hearing anything more ravishing and beautiful being played in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts since it opened 20 years ago.

The last movement melded passion and exuberance and technical perfection — save for one spot. At the recapitulation Harrell forgot where he was, astonishing given his undoubted familiarity with the score and his history of acclaimed performances and numerous recordings that would be called “legendary” except for the fact that they actually exist.

It was like watching an acrobat miss the trapeze he was reaching for. Harrell didn’t hit any false notes, but his hand hovered uncertainly over the strings for a moment before he nailed an entry spot and came back into the game, as if the same acrobat had kept spinning and snatched the next trapeze over without missing a beat.

With that save, Saturday’s performance really did touch the status of legend.

At the final chord, the half-capacity crowd roared more as if the hall was jam-packed with heavy metal rock fans.

The audience quickly took to its feet and kept clapping until the pair returned and calmed them with more Rachmaninoff, his “Vocalaise.”

Fans of the comic strip “9 Chickweed Lane” know that over the last week pianist Edda and cellist Amos kept acquaintances and audience on the edge of their seats with their performance at a music contest in Belgium. The wordless series of panels conveyed no sound. But substitute two real middle-aged guys for the cartoon’s young lovers and, on Saturday night, one could believe we heard the music being played in the strip.


"Fantasy is not just a technical showcase, but a big, clear picture window of a musician with a rich soul and great artistic depth. It is also a fantastic example of programming that entertains as well as edifies.”
-Musical Toronto

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