Music masters celebrate 40 years

Photo by Robert Eddy

Photo by Robert Eddy

By JIM LOWE
THE LOWE DOWN

There is nothing like the deeply satisfying experience of hearing masters playing great music together. Add to that that cellist Dieuwke Davydov and pianist Diana Fanning, both of Middlebury, have been performing together for 40 years, and there is a possibility of real musical intimacy.

Those factors resulted in a rather incredible performance Saturday at Randolph’s Chandler Musical Hall, when Davydov and Fanning began a tour, including four Vermont dates and five in Europe, celebrating their anniversary. Their techniques remain in top form, but their experience has resulted in a deeply satisfying, even exciting musical experience.

Their biggest success was in Johannes Brahms’ magnificent Sonata in E minor, Op. 38, the major work on the duo’s first program, one that can be dense, heavy and overwhelming. Davydov and Fanning, however, accentuated the work’s innate lyricism, and with their intimate interaction, made it a riveting and soulful experience without losing any of its drama and passion.

Davydov, Dutch born and a longtime member of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, plays with a lighter sound than some cellists, but with a deftness that allows for real nuance in her expressiveness. Fanning is a virtuoso who plays with clarity and an even technique that results in elegance, but there’s also plenty of power and drama when called for.

There were two exquisite moments Saturday. First was Randolph composer Kathy Wonson Eddy’s 2001 response to the 9-11 tragedy, “Peace on Earth: A Thrush Singing in Deep Woods.” Against delicate birdcalls on the piano, the cello “sings” a song, from tender to passionate, heart wrenching to heart warming. Davydov and Fanning delivered a deeply touching performance.

The other was the duo’s encore, the slow movement, Largo, from Chopin’s Sonata in G minor, Op. 65. Here both Davydov and Fanning had the opportunity to “sing.” And that they did, with a subtle nuance and expressiveness that went straight to the heart.

Davydov enjoyed the overt virtuosity of Saint-Saëns’ famous Allegro Appassionato, Op.43, while the two delivered the unexpected lush romanticism of the Phantasiestück, Op. 8, No. 2, by a young Paul Hindemith. Fanning offered the gentle lullaby of Chopin’s Berceuse, Op. 57, for solo piano, as well as the colors, wit, charm and virtuosity of two Debussy etudes.

The program opened with a grand performance of Beethoven’s Sonata in G minor, Op. 5, No. 2. Although Davydov had moments of shaky intonation and Fanning was responsible for a couple of muddy lines, the playing was virtuosic and they delivered the joy of Beethoven. This was playing in the grand manner.

Davydov-Fanning Duo

The Davydov-Fanning Duo — cellist Dieuwke Davydov and pianist Diana Fanning — continues its tour to:

— Sunday, Feb. 26: Middlebury — Mead Memorial Chapel, Middlebury College, 4 p.m., 802-443-3168, www.middlebury.edu/arts.

— Saturday, April 1: Brandon — Brandon Music Café, 62 Country Club Road, 7:30 p.m., 802-247-4295, www.brandon-music.net.

— Wednesday, May 17: Stowe — Community Church, 137 Main St., noon, 802-253-7792, www.stoweperformingarts.com.

For more information, go online to www.middlebury.edu/~fanning.