Artist Series features violinist Lee

As the Sochi Winter Olympics kicked off the global athletic competition this past Saturday, Feb. 8, the Chapel exemplified mastery and artistry within the arts with the fourth concert of the season’s Artist Serxies featuring violinist Rachel Lee and pianist Julio Elizalde.

Rachel Lee Priday is a Chicago-born violinist who studied at The Juilliard School prior to college, earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University and then attended New England Conservatory for her master’s degree. She has performed with orchestras from Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Seattle, National Symphonies, the Boston Pops and Aspen Sinfonia at the Aspen Music Festival.

Her collaborating pianist, Julio Elizalde, is from the San Francisco Bay Area and studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and The Juilliard School. He performs throughout the United States, Europe and Latin America and he is the co-artistic director of the Olympic Music Festival in Washington. During Saturday’s performance, Elizalde performed with an iPad on the music stand rather than paper music and used a foot pedal to turn the “pages.”

Rachel Lee performed four works and an encore by Wolfgang Mozart, Ludwig Beethoven, Leos Janacek, Pablo de Sarasate and Peter Tchaikovsky, spanning a range of musical periods and styles. The first piece, by Mozart, was his “Violin Sonata No. 21 in E minor,” a two-movement work characteristic of Mozart’s lighthearted and precise style. Lee’s masterful control of her instrument allowed her to capture the subtlety and delicacy inherent in Mozart’s composition.

The next piece was Beethoven’s “Violin Sonata No. 7 in C minor,” made up of three faster-paced allegro movements and an adagio, slower movement. As compared to the Mozart, this piece exemplified Beethoven’s dramaticism with extreme dynamics, gliding melodic moments juxtaposed against violent, harsh passages, both by each soloist and as a dialogue between the two, reacting and feeding off each other’s energy.

After a brief intermission, we jumped one hundred years forward to hear the Czech composer’s “Violin Sonata,” made up of four movements: con moto, balada, allegretto and adagio. Differing from the Classical period’s Mozart and Beethoven, this work had more complex rhythmic patterns, greater use of chromaticism, included more instrumental effects such as plucking and was less outwardly melodic yet very intricate between the two parts.

The last piece was the highlight of the concert, Spanish composer Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen, op. 20.” Whereas the first three pieces were read from the music, Rachel played this piece from memory, giving her the freedom to engage with the audience, living up to a review that praises her compelling stage presence. She was on fire with this piece, dramatically performing at extreme ranges with such purity and exhibiting virtuosic technique at incredibly quick tempos.

After that final, mesmerizing performance, the audience was immediately on their feet demanding more of this electric playing. The duo returned to the stage and performed a short encore of a sweetly melodic work from Tchaikovsky’s Op. 41.

Jumping from the couch of Hiett Hall watching the best athletes in the world compete in the Olympics to the seats of the Chapel to enjoy a performance by an individual who has devoted her life to music, it occurred to me how easy it is today to be exposed to performances of extremely high levels of ability and mastery. We should all be reminded once in awhile of what it takes to rise to these levels and be inspired to join these athletes and artists.

The next Artist Series installment is not to be missed. It will welcome major jazz ensemble, The Pat Metheny Unity Group, on Saturday, March 15 in the Chapel.