Cellist Fred Sherry
Friday night, Lippes Concert Hall, University at Buffalo
Listening to Fred Sherry play music makes you realize what a gorgeous-sounding instrument the cello can be.
Aided by his superb accompanist, pianist Stephen Gosling, Sherry presented a program that mixed standards of the cello repertoire by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Brahms, Gabriel Faure, and Claude Debussy along with works by Igor Stravinsky, Charles Wuorinen and Elliott Carter.
It all made for a special evening of stunning musical artistry, combining intelligent programming with prodigious technique and a sensitive delivery.
It is hard to pick out any one specific performance and call it the highlight of the evening, but a good case could be made for several individual pieces. Certainly the Debussy sonata that opened the concert would be a contender as Sherry and Gosling showcased the composer's well-thought-out roles for their respective instruments, alternately leading and supporting each other. The second movement with its deliciously pointed playing from the duo was particularly enjoyable.
In many ways the same things could be said of Sherry's playing of the Brahms cello sonata (Op. 38), the prelude from Bach's third suite for solo cello, and Faure's evocative "Elegie". All are among the most widely admired works for the cello and received elegant interpretations from the musicians, but there were other pieces in the recital that begged for consideration or, at least, a decent listening.
Stravinsky's "Piano Rag Music" was an interesting take on ragtime music by a composer who had never actually heard an example of the art before he wrote the piece. Thus some of the mannerisms of the genre were skewed in a most inventive fashion but lacked some of the comfort factor of rags written by Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb, or from among the more modern purveyors of the art, William Bolcom and William Albright. As a solo piece for Gosling, however, "Piano Rag Music" was a major tour de force.
Wuorinen and Carter both wrote scores for Sherry that made it onto Friday's program. The former composer's "Cello Variations II" called on the cellist to make the best of a work of music that wasn't necessarily a musical work. Carter's "Figment No. 2" was in a similar vein but seemed less concerned with the elements of musical technique (although there were plenty on display) and more with forming intelligible musical phrases.