Kian Soltani and Julio Elizalde at Mostly Mozart

A Little Night Music at the Kaplan Penthouse

By: - Jul 24, 2019

Kian Soltani, Cello
Julio Elizalde, Piano
A Little Night Music
Mostly Mozart
Lincoln Center
New York, New York
July 23, 2019

Cellist Kian Soltani partnered with pianist Julio Elizalde in a late evening concert in Lincoln Center's nightclub in the sky, the Stanley Kaplan Penthouse. Mostly Mozart presented Soltani, who like Mozart, was born in Austria.  Mozart's interest in Zoroaster, a character in The Magic Flute, was updated by Soltani playing his own composition, Persian Fire Dance.  Sacred fire is part of Zoroaster's world. Mozart's high priest of the temple of Isis and Osiris in The Magic Flute is Sarastro, who lives in a Zoroasterian world.

The distinctive modes expressed in Fire Dance place us clearly in the Persian world.  A prelude precedes fast metrics, song lines and a rhythmic closing.  This shaping Soltani beautifully performed is integral to Iranian musical form. 

Soltani opened with Schumann's Fantasiestücke, taken at a brisker pace than usual, but one that well-suited this interpretation.  Schumann's melodies and harmonies are so rich that they linger. Moving forward through them honors the composer's thick sonic world.

Before he played the David Popper's Hungarian Rhapsody, Soltani pointed out that Popper had written an indispensable guide to cello performance.  A specific exercise in Etude 27 prepared him for the composition’s flying spiccato, which Soltani performed with stunning accuracy and brilliance.  

While it is doubtful that the splendor of Soltani’s executions and interpretations can be attributed solely to devoted attention to Popper, the rewards of practicing these etudes were clear in up bow and down bow staccato strokes, double stop patterns, detached bow stroke in loud notes, left hand agility, and pure intonation in double strokes.  Clean string crossings were executed while maintaining a constant bow pressure.  

Knowledge of these specifics is not required for the pure pleasure of listening to the music Soltani creates.  He does not find it necessary to distract with excessive movement of head hairs or flying gut strings detached from the bow.  Attention is directed to the instrument and the sounds which can be extracted from it. 

Soltani has a distinctive legato which often bridges phrases, giving both the sense of a phrase and of the long line encompassing an entire passage.  From time to time the punctuation of an ending is dynamic in a brief crescendo. 

Dynamics are crucial to Soltani's performance.  Instead of using rubatos, or altering tempi for emphasis, he gives us dynamic variety. You feel that you are speeding up and slowing down, but in fact the notes are in strict time.  

Soltani and thoughtful pianist Julio Elizalde were debuting at Lincoln Center and in their partnership.  Their instant comfortability was clear.  Elizalde touted his musical athleticism before Chopin's  Introduction and Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3.  The piece was written for a Prince, a patron of the composer's.  The piano part was written for his daughter. Elizalde doubted that the young princess could have played the difficult piano part, but if she practiced her scales and consecutive triads and octaves, she may well have pulled off a version.  Elizalde played with verve and stunning accuracy.  Soltani was positively princely.

Reza Vali's Selections from Persian Folk Songs and the slow movement from Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata created brackets for the worldly program in an all too short late evening concert. The multi-cultural background of this superb young cellist is an added pleasure.

Sitting in the penthouse with candle lights reflected in the windows and the night lights of the city surrounding us provides a special and intimate way to enjoy the superb music offered here by Lincoln Center.