SSO musicians LeDoux and Kim ‘set the bar high’ in CMM season opener

David Abrams 11/12/09More articles
Three-work chamber music program ties in handsomely with Everson Museum’s ‘Turner to Cézanne’ exhibit.

Civic Morning Musicals kicked off its Live! At the Everson series in impressive fashion Tuesday evening, sponsoring a recital by two prominent members of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra that provided an appreciative audience yet another reminder of the depth of talent within its own backyard.

David LeDoux is principal cellist of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and an active chamber music performer in Central New York. I heard LeDoux’s performance with violinist Jeremy Mastrangelo of the Brahms Double Concerto with the SSO last season, and wrote in my Syracuse Post-Standard review that "LeDoux is a rock-solid performer, demonstrating a secure command of his instrument and handling the tricky high register and double-stop passages with grace and élan."

Pianist Daniel Kim is one of the gifted few who make the rest of us embarrassed to publish our resumes. An accomplished orchestral violinist and pianist, the current SSO keyboardist somehow found sufficient time outside the practice room to complete three degrees at Harvard – including a PhD in experimental high-energy physics.

Of course, you don’t need a doctorate in physics to recognize that in music, at least, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts: That’s what we call good chamber music playing. And Tuesday’s synergistic collaboration between LeDoux and Kim suggest that this is one axiom that will stand the test of time.

The program opened with the Poulenc Cello Sonata, a neo-classical potpourri of contrasting movements whose shifting moods resemble more of a suite or divertimento than a serious sonata.

The tuneful first-movement Allegro spins out melodic lines spiced with a Lydian (raised fourth scale-degree) modal flavor, which is then followed by a Marcia that parodies the motor-rhythmic drive of Prokofiev. LeDoux’s playing here demonstrated a firm command of pitch that extended into the high-register passages, although his sound could not compete with the Everson Museum’s nine-foot Steinway Grand whose lid was raised in fully-upright position.

Kim adjusted his touch (albeit not, regrettably, the piano lid) in the rich, chordal passages of the second movement Cavatine – which lifts a good portion of its thematic materials from the composer’s own Sextet for Piano and Winds, written some 16 years earlier. LeDoux delivered Poulenc’s rich and expressive phrases with passion and sensitivity, and was complemented by Kim’s evenly spaced voicings in the rich chordal section accompaniment.

The third movement Ballabile is Poulenc at his best – easy-listening parlor music, designed purely to entertain. I especially enjoyed Kim’s bouncy, effervescent touch – which was suitably playful and carefree. The fourth-movement finale begins loudly with a wild tarantella-like dance, and then sadly loses steam – as if the composer had plum run out of ideas (a problem not at all uncommon with Poulenc).

Debussy’s Violin Sonata in G Minor (transcribed here for cello) opens with a lush, harmonically rich Allegro vivo that draws the listener into the musical experience, but the composer cannot maintain that same level of imagination in the two succeeding movements. Whatever one may think of the work’s relative merits, however, it’s difficult to recommend an arrangement that offers no improvement over the original version for violin.

Moreover, the frequent unidiomatic passages in the cello’s altissimo register during the first two movements sound out of character within the scope of Debussy’s compositional style. Still, the rapid passagework in the cello during the Finale led to some rather exciting moments, as LeDoux navigated the tricky demands of the movement with confidence and ease of delivery.

The highlight of the evening’s fare was Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, an arrangement by the composer (with the help of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky) of his neo-classical ballet, Pulcinella. This was, to be sure, the most melodic work on the program – although it should be pointed out that the melodies in this work owe more to Pergolesi than Stravinsky. And unlike the prior two works on the program, which are essentially pieces for cello with piano accompaniment, this five-movement suite is designed as a true duo, with an equality of parts.

The second movement Serenata, like the Cavatine movement of the Poulenc Sonata, afforded LeDoux ample opportunity to demonstrate his command of phrasing, as he delivered the expressive melodic lines with warmth and a clear sense of direction. The wild, foot-tapping Tarantella gave Kim a chance to showcase his formidable fingerwork, and he managed to squeeze every ornament and embellishment into his demanding part during this exciting, take-no-prisoners tempo.

The Suite’s Finale brought an end not only to an exciting piece of music, but also to a well-prepared and skillfully executed recital performance by two outstanding musicians who have set the bar high for all future CMM events.

Editor's note: For more words from David Abrams go to

TAGS: SSO musicians,Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, LeDoux, Pianist Daniel Kim,Jeremy Mastrangelo,Everson Museum,Civic Morning Musicals,Turner to Cézanne exhibit,CMM season opener
EDITION: The Eagle

Rating: 2.9/5 (16 votes cast)

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