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Brooklyn Rider Violinist Johnny Gandelsman Performs at Le Poisson Rouge –

Johnny Gandelsman making his rescheduled New York recital debut on solo violin on Monday at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village.

Johnny Gandelsman making his rescheduled New York recital debut on solo violin on Monday at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village.

Ideas From Near and Far Meet in Intimate Scale

By ZACHARY WOOLFE / The New York Times

The busy violinist Johnny Gandelsman was supposed to have made his New York recital debut on Aug. 13 at Le Poisson Rouge. But fate intervened; announcing the concert’s cancellation on Twitter, he compressed into a hashtag the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”

In remarks from the stage at the rescheduled recital on Monday, Mr. Gandelsman said, without elaboration, that it had not been bad news that forced him to cancel. The only apparent down side for him was that Le Poisson Rouge, its fall season already crowded, could only fit him into a slot at 10:30 p.m.

That may not have been a down side at all. Even over 90 intermissionless minutes of dense solo violin music, there were few yawns from the attentive and enthusiastic audience, and — just as in Lincoln Center’s series A Little Night Music — the late hour added more coziness to what was already an intimate program and space.

A fixture on the New York music scene, Mr. Gandelsman plays in the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and the chamber orchestra the Knights, and has long been a member of the stylistically omnivorous Silk Road Ensemble. In 2008 he founded a label, In a Circle Records.

Juxtapositions of old and new energize all these groups. Brooklyn Rider has performed and recorded “Seven Steps,” a partly improvised group composition, alongside the work that inspired it, Beethoven’s Opus 131 string quartet. So it was no surprise that Mr. Gandelsman’s recital ranged from the Baroque to Philip Glass.

But the program was planned and performed to emphasize coherence rather than diversity, a treatment that was particularly revelatory when it came to the choice of Mr. Glass’s “Strung Out” (1967). While many have remarked on Indian music and rock’s influence on his early work, Mr. Glass’s early-music connection has been less noted.

But played between  Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s grand Passacaglia and Bach’s Sonata No. 3, “Strung Out” sounded quintessentially Baroque, with the same tension between stillness and motion, the same workings and reworkings of small pieces of musical material. Mr. Gandelsman — his ornamentation immaculate and nimble, like sparks in a dark church — was as attentive to the music’s broad narrative as to tiny shifts of texture and mood, his tone translucently smooth at one point and with a dusky burr at another.

Wearing jeans, a vest and short sleeves, Mr. Gandelsman looked folksy, and his playing was accordingly unpretentious, modest and clear, with irresistible lightness, a bright trill and a preternatural (perhaps premature) wistfulness. His vibrato was restrained in Stravinsky’s somber “Élégie” (written in 1944 for viola), and there was a core of melancholy calm even in the jovial moments of his rendition of Bach’s Partita No. 2, which ended almost exactly at midnight.

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