Bravos and standing ovations punctuated the Feb. 16 opening concert of the Friends of Music 2020 season. Acclaimed violinist Eric Silberger, in his third appearance at a Friends of Music event, and pianist Bradley Moore, in his first, set out to evoke an operatic quality in the five pieces by opera composers that they performed. Applause simply couldn’t be avoided between movements of a piece, like spontaneous reactions to a glorious aria in an opera house.
Only two of the works actually drew from opera – “Porgy and Bess,” by George Gershwin, arranged by Jascha Heifetz (and played by Silberger with Heifetz-like virtuosity) and “Carmen Fantaisie Brillante,” by Jenö Hubay. With Mozart’s “Violin sonata No. 26,” Richard Strauss’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat Major,” and Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir d’un Lieu Cher,” all sang their way into the hearts of the audience, to the point of tears. “Violinists often say they make love to their instruments. Eric’s violin made love to the audience,” one woman sighed following the Strauss work.
The two artists communicated with eyes, eyebrows and head nods throughout, and their timing was perfect. Surprisingly, this was the first time they had collaborated in recital. They clearly enjoyed themselves, to the point of improvising their own trills in the Mozart sonata. “That was permitted in Mozart’s time,” Mr. Moore reassured later.
As it happens, Mr. Moore is an assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and has coached the likes of Renée Fleming and Angela Meade. At the concert, he also sang one phrase – “it ain’t necessarily so”– in a beautiful baritone voice, though he insists he is no singer and that Mr. Silberger made him do it. Mr. Silberger, a graduate from the Perlman Program over a decade ago and a winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition, is a virtuoso artist with a soft spot for Shelter Island. Lucky for us.