Clarinetist Pavel Vinnitsky had a slow start to his recital Sunday afternoon, but once he relaxed he showed how wonderfully versatile he is. The concert was part of the Filene Concert Series at Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center.
Vinnitsky is a New York City free-lancer with some of the most prestigious organizations in town, including the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. His skills on Sunday included playing basset horn and the bass clarinet. He is also an acclaimed klezmer clarinetist.
But he began his recital in a more traditional way — if you could call playing Bach on a basset horn conventional. Composers of the 18th century often wrote for the instrument, so the piece, “Bela Kovacs,” was probably an arrangement. Vinnitsky got a mellow tone, showed agile facility, and did some nice phrasing. Some information about the instrument, which is played rarely, would have been appreciated.
In Paul Hindemith’s Clarinet Sonata, Vinnitsky was solid with a full round sound, light fingers, finished phrases and an attention to details. The pianist, Anna Vinnitsky, who is his wife, provided strong, sensitive support with excellent balances, as she did throughout the afternoon.
But in Meyer Kupferman’s “Moonflowers, Baby!,” which was a jazz essay for solo clarinet, Vinnitsky seemed to burst to life. He caught the jazz elements perfectly, from the tight grace notes, tremolos, glissandos and offbeat accents to the style’s special kind of nudges, all mingled with fluid technical licks across the clarinet’s full range. The piece seemed close to his heart and he gave it much feeling and care. It’s also a great piece.
That broke the ice.
After intermission, sans jacket, he and his wife electrified in Poulenc’s inspired Clarinet Sonata. The three movement’s gorgeous melodies, jazzy moods and the atmosphere all sparkled. It was wonderful playing and the small crowd expressed its appreciation.
It was clear sailing for the rest of the show. The duo transfixed in two tangos by Astor Piazzolla, one of which was brooding and dark and the other was insistent and fast.
Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei”, which was arranged for bass clarinet and piano, was solemn and dark. Bass clarinet gets the most mysterious sounds.
Yoel Engel’s “Freilach” for clarinet and piano was in klezmer style, as were two more tunes. Vinnitsky is as comfortable with klezmer as wearing a favorite sweater. For the encore, another klezmer number, he strolled back and forth across the stage while he played. The audience loved it.