Youth and elegance mix in Paramount recital

Jim Lowe

Although he was carded at Roots the Restaurant immediately after his Paramount recital Saturday, 24-year-old violinist Paul Huang had qualities few virtuosi his age have — refinement and elegance, as well as passion and virtuosity.

Huang and pianist Jessica Xylina Osborne performed a traditional recital of real substance, certainly one of the best in the Passages at the Paramount classical music series, presented in conjunction with New York’s Young Concert Artists.

The concert defied tradition in another important way. Although billed as a violin recital with piano accompaniment, it was a more of a duo recital — a coming together of two equals — as is best in major violin and piano repertoire like Beethoven, Grieg and Franck.

Unusual too was that Huang and Osborne are of very different temperaments with quite disparate styles of playing. While Huang is refined and introspective, Osborne is much more extroverted, even a bit brash. But their playing rather than clashing, complemented, and brought out the best in each other.

Osborne and Huang proved to have a deep musical chemistry and it worked — beautifully.

Saturday’s pièce de résistance was César Franck’s Sonata in A major, one of the grandest and most deeply passionate sonatas of the Romantic period. Huang played with a refined lyricism, a rich warm sound, while Osborne played with able virtuosity as well as gusto.

This was a big performance, both in concept and delivery. Still, there were beautifully delicate moments between the two. This wasn’t a “cookie-cutter” performance of this often played work. Rather it was very personal and nuanced, and together the two achieved its rich grandeur.

Enjoying the same qualities was Edvard Grieg’s Sonata No. 3 in c minor, Opus 45. In fact, here Huang let loose a bit more, matching Osborne’s passion. Still his playing was most elegant and warm, and the result was a deeply felt and rewarding performance on both parts.

Least successful, though very well played, was Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 in G Major, Opus 30, No. 3. Here Huang’s excellent playing bordered on careful, lacking the feeling of musical freedom that makes Beethoven work. Conversely, Osborne enjoyed Beethoven’s drama.

Huang and Osborne also delivered a beautifully introspective performance of Arvo Pärt’s quasi-religious “Fratres.” And their encore, Stephen Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” was pure charm.

Saturday’s Passages recital was very substantial performance playing by very young and talented players.

Jim LoweRutland Herald