It may seem like a small difference. But collected over the course of her two-hour recital with violinist Kristin Lee and pianist Andrea Lam, it added up to a style of playing more closely echoing the human voice than we're used to hearing in these parts.
The repertoire helped to shape her argument. The Montreal native and Lee played the premiere of A Scattered Sketchbook by Syrian composer Kinan Azmeh, a harmonically hypnotic piece that might be roughly thought of as Middle Eastern minimalism. With its quiet wails, improv-sounding violin part, and repetitious clarinet, it's much more about the journey than the destination, and we were happy to linger in its mists.
If the Brahms Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in F Minor, Opus 120, No. 1 needed more time before becoming a strongly developed interpretation, and the Debussy Première rhapsodie was an appropriate joy, there was a much more sophisticated achievement to be found in Bartók's Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano. Like the Azmeh, it draws on folk material. Lam managed a wondrous evocation of a cimbalom in the first movement, "Verbunkos," a Hungarian dance, and Lee made two demonically gorgeous statements in "Sebes," a fast dance.
In section after section, one strong personality emboldened the other. Here you could hear Astral fulfilling not only its role as importer, but, too, as a wise force in the mysterious art of ensemble-making.
Contact Peter Dobrin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-5611. Read his blog at www.philly.com/artswatch.