To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Cello and piano duo resurrect classical masterpieces

In the Slosberg Music Center this past Saturday, Oct. 3 the music was electrifying and resurrected long-gone composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and César Franck. It also invoked Louis Gordon’s work, the only of the three composers whose work was presented that night and remains alive.

During Brandeis’ concert series, Primary Motivations, these three composers were very much alive and present, thanks to the duo of Joshua Gordon (MUS) on cello and Randall Hodgkinson on piano. Besides invoking the deftness of such prodigies through their compositions, the night marked the debut of the music department’s new Steinway & Sons Model B Grand Piano, which was funded by the Ilse H. Perlman Trust and the Dean of Arts and Sciences.

The program started with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Cello Sonatas,” also known as sonata in C major, Op. 102 no. 1. “It is worth illustrating here Beethoven’s economical yet masterful approach to motivic usage in the opening of his C major sonata,” said Gordon and added that it “subverts the usual antecedent-consequent scheme by having what ought to be a consequential answer from the piano become a continuation of the question.” The piano gently joined the cello’s initial closing gesture in a contrarian motion, and both ornaments actually created new motives from fragments of the previous ones.

“Violin Sonata” (Sonata in A major), by César Franck, which is considered one of the finest sonatas for violin and piano ever written, had a great appeal to the audience for its melodies. Both pieces by Beethoven and Franck have achieved fame and recognition that “reward rediscovery,” said Gordon.

Composer Louis Gordon happens to be Joshua Gordon’s father, and the duo played Louis Gordon’s sonata, “in a return performance as we approach his 90th birthday in February 2016,” said Joshua Gordon.

The performance was overall astonishing, mostly because of the great duo that Joshua Gordon and Hodgkinson make. There was this flabbergasting and breathtaking passion that was demonstrated through the sound of their instruments. How can an artist be more true to himself, than by responding to all the elements that becomes a “quest for the essence of this introduction’s character and expression,” said Joshua Gordon about playing Beethoven’s “Cello Sonatas.”

In fact, both performers have been successful and celebrated musicians. Joshua Gordon joined the Lydian String Quartet and the faculty of Brandeis University back in 2002. In addition to being part of the faculty, he is also an artist member of the Worcester Chamber Music Society. He has performed in several places around the world and has been a guest at the Apple Hill, Cassatt, DaPonte, Harvard, Julliard and Ying Quartets.

Hodgkinson has also lived a successful career as a musician, achieving international recognition as a winner of the International American Music Competition, which is for pianists, and it is sponsored by Carnegie Hall and the Rockefeller Foundation. He has made several appearances with major orchestras, including Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo and the American Symphony among others. During the time he was in Boston Musica Viva, he travelled through Europe and the United States. He is currently part of the faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge.

Together, Joshua Gordon and Hodgkinson can be heard on their critically-acclaimed New World recording, “Leo Ornstein: Complete Works for Cello and Piano,” which was recognized as the top-ten classical recordings back in 2007 by the All Music Guide. They have ventured into other duo programs which is a rather classical concoction of distinct artists, such as, Beethoven, Chopin, Martinu, Gunther Schuller, among an extensive list of others.

You can listen to their album from the comfort of your home. However, if you didn’t make it to Saturday’s performance, you have missed their electrifying vibe and their possessed artistic souls turned into action—plus the new piano does make every sound more majestic.

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