Saturday, October 12, 2019

New YorkClassicalReview: Aisha Syed in William Grant Still's Suite for Violin and Piano

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

Violinist Aisha Syed brings warmth, virtuosity to Zankel Hall recital

Fri Oct 11, 2019

Aisha Syed may not be a household name in the world of the classical violin, and probably won’t become one anytime soon. But she brought a refreshing program of short, snappy works to Zankel Hall Thursday night as part of the Dominican Heritage and Culture Society’s 3rd Annual Concert: Heritage. The tour is designed to gain awareness for the Dominican Republic’s dedication to the arts and to provide scholarships for worthy students.

After 20 minutes or so of tributes to the Dominican Republic Heritage and Culture Society, advertisers, sponsors, and board members, the featured soloist and her accompanist, pianist Martin Labazevitch, launched into a program of encore favorites blended with selections from composers whose works deserve to be heard more often. The general feel of the program was festive, but subdued, a musical holiday suitable for a luncheon soiree.

The program opened with 20th century composer William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Piano, an ebullient dialogue that weaves jazz motifs with classical influences. It was both refreshing and instructive to hear this excellent composition — often performed among other Still works during Black History month — presented on its purely musical merits and given a spirited rendition by both musicians. There was some confusion because the work was listed twice in the program, and the enthusiastic audience burst into applause several times, but Syed, a true professional, kept on playing with poise and confidence.

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