BY TIM SAWYIER
The University of Chicago Presents series hosted violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Anna Polonsky in a recital at the University’s Mandel Hall Friday night. The duo was a last-minute substitution for violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov, who were forced to cancel last week due to Faust’s illness.
The evening opened with Ravel’s popular showpiece Tzigane. From the vicious opening gesture of the lengthy cadenza that launches the work, Jackiw persuasively evoked the piece’s gypsy inspiration, producing exotic timbres in passages impossibly high on the G-string and idiomatically emphasizing Ravel’s crunched double-stopped dissonances. Polonsky provided a lapidary accompaniment throughout while also channeling the lutheal (an apparatus attached to the piano to produce a jangling cimbalom-like sound, which Ravel indicated in his original score). The performance also benefited from freer rubato than one typically hears in performances with orchestral accompaniment, though Jackiw and Polosnky didn’t quite end together.