It’s been about two years since a red-headed whirlwind hit town, and the Sarasota Orchestra hasn’t been the same since. Abraham Feder, the ensemble’s new principal cellist, was still studying at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia, when he suddenly found himself with a first-chair position in our first-rate orchestra, so he packed his bags — and his cello case — and flew south to his new home. (He returned to play his graduate recital this year, so all’s well at Curtis.)
Just a couple of weeks ago, “Big Red” (as he’s sometimes called) joined with some musical pals from Curtis to play a pair of performances as part of the Curtis Sarasota Society series. We caught the first, a private performance, featuring Feder and violinist Ray Chen.
At this musicale, Feder began with a deep-throated, full-throttle rendering of the prelude from the Bach Suite No. 6 in D. Unaccompanied music is some of the most difficult to perform because the solo instrument plays not only the intricate melody but also the harmonies and, in the case of Bach, many complex contrapuntal phrases. Feder made his instrument, a 1785 Joseph Odoardi cello, sound like a Baroque orchestra.
Then Chen, the phenomenally talented Curtis alum who took first prize in the 2009 Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels (one of the most coveted awards in the music world), played an excerpt from Bach’s A minor Sonata, No. 2, and then captured our ears and hearts with an astonishingly virtuosic performance of the Paganini Caprice No. 21 in A.
That was followed by the Kodaly Duo for violin and cello and, if that weren’t enough, an encore of a wild and thrill-filled passacaglia that would have left Heifetz and Piatigorsky crying uncle.
It just shows what amazing young talent is being nurtured these days and how fortunate we are in Sarasota to have Feder as our principal cellist and how blessed he makes us all by bringing his Curtis friends to town.
— June LeBell
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