Erin Keefe & Anna Polonsky — Images via erinkeefeviolin.com & annapolonsky.com

Erin Keefe & Anna Polonsky

Music in the Park Series
St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ

At Sunday’s concert in the Schubert Club’s Music in the Park Series, Twin Cities classical music fans had an opportunity to hear from a familiar performer who has unfortunately been all too unfamiliar recently: violinist Erin Keefe, concertmaster of the locked-out Minnesota Orchestra, in collaboration with pianist Anna Polonsky. Throughout their recital, Keefe and Polonsky maintained a high energy level, performing a selection of largely virtuosic pieces by five very different composers.

The program began with Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 3, one of the composer’s major early works. Keefe and Polonsky made short work of the sonata’s propulsive and extroverted outer movements, but the real heart of the piece was its central slow movement. Passing one of Beethoven’s most compelling melodies back and forth between them, they allowed the music plenty of room to sing.

Next came Witold Lutosławski’s Subito, a piece that made a strong impression despite its brief five minutes, with the musicians deftly navigating through multiple musical episodes while giving a slightly different take on the frantic opening figure each of the four times it reoccurred throughout the piece. The Lutosławski was followed by Bedřich Smetana’s Z domoviny (From the Homeland), a folk-influenced work in two movements. Keefe and Polonsky gave the piece an appropriately energetic reading that ended with a seemingly effortless tear-through of the second movement’s intense coda, which they repeated an hour later as their encore.

In the meantime, after the intermission, the concert resumed with another short piece, Valentines by local composer David Evan Thomas. Keefe and Polonsky gave a gentle rendition of Thomas’s series of waltz-like tunes. The final piece on the program was Richard Strauss’s arch-late-romantic Violin Sonata, the last significant chamber work the composer wrote before he turned largely to operas and tone poems. One characteristic of the sonata that came to the fore in this performance was the way the music seemed to surge forward at many points throughout all three movements, ultimately building to another explosive finale.

It is rare to come across a recital program so dominated by lesser-known pieces. While the Beethoven and Lutosławski were probably the strongest compositions on the program, Keefe and Polonsky performed all five with an equal level of commitment, revealing the unique characteristics of each piece in turn and giving themselves an obvious workout in the process.

Erin Keefe photo by Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Anna Polonsky photo by Scott Meivogel

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.