San Francisco Symphony violinist Florin Parvulescu makes a most welcome return to the Piedmont Center for the Arts (PCA) on Dec. 8, bringing a well-curated selection of superlative repertoire. Joined by pianist Samantha Cho, the program includes Bach’s dazzling Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major; Bénédictions de Dieu dans la Solitude, S.173, by Franz Liszt; a pair of solo piano sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti; and French composer Gabriel Fauré’s much admired Sonata for Violin & Piano in A major, Op.13.
Parvulescu, a member of SF Symphony since 1998, hails from Bucharest, Romania. Trained at Juilliard and with degrees from Peabody Conservatory of Music, he has received the Marbury Award and Yale Gordon award, among others. Recognized also as a conductor, Parvulescu maintains an active guest conductor schedule and continues to appear worldwide as a soloist and chamber musician.
Cho, a native of Los Angeles, performs often in the Bay Area with Parvulescu and separately, in solo recitals and chamber music performances in the United States and internationally. She earned a Bachelor of Music at Northwestern University, Master of Music at Cleveland Institute of Music, and received her Doctor of Musical Arts at University of Minnesota. An avid music educator, Cho is a member of the piano faculty at Los Angeles Pierce College and coaches pre-college chamber music groups at San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Which all adds up to two extremely busy musicians whose popularity extends beyond virtuoso command of the violin and piano. Engaging and articulate, two features especially appreciated in smaller venues and intimate settings, Parvulescu and Cho offer special insights into the works and the composers showcased on the program.
In works performed together, sensitive listening and complementary performing styles enhance the duo’s individual talents. Parulescu is a brilliant technician whose enthusiasm for the most difficult passages leads him to perform with thrilling abandon. Cho is a strong pianist; capable and in control of instant shifts in emphasis or gentle entry and exits between movements or seamless transitions required in longer works.
One highlight on the program particularly well-matched to Parvulescu’s skill set is the E major Partita. Bursting out of the gate with an astonishing flood of sixteenth notes in the opening preludio, the work then flows through five dance movements: the slow, “gigue-like” court dance is followed by a sturdy gavotte, suitably brisk bourré and a rousing gigue. A second work, the Fauré sonata, tasks both musicians with its broad range.
Fauré, an organist for more than forty years, never wrote for his instrument, but achieved hard-won success as a composer with the often- performed chamber work. Blending aspects of medieval and Renaissance church music with a more modern, reserved or neoclassical approach, the audience might notice the sonata’s compelling sound is created by tension between gorgeous, melancholy or formal, aristocratic sections and lively, less-romantic passages. What are certain to be recognizable — and made audible — are the musicians’ finesse and the fine choices made in selecting a varied program that puts on display their best talents.
Sunday, Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Piedmont Center for the Arts, 801 Magnolia Ave. Buy tickets here.