Tamaki Kawakubo at Evermay
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 at 05:38PM
Stephen Brookes

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • August 19, 2012

Among the more intriguing additions to Washington’s music scene this summer has been “Overtures,” a new series of chamber music concerts at the elegant Evermay estate in Georgetown. The series was designed to showcase gifted young performers, and in its sold-out closing concert Friday night it did exactly that, with a stunning and at times almost volcanic recital by violinist Tamaki Kawakubo.

At first glance, Kawakubo doesn’t cut a particularly imposing figure. Slight, soft-spoken and dressed in a gown that looked as though she’d just pulled it out of a paper bag, she closed her eyes and launched into the “Chaconne” movement from Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor, for solo violin. But it was immediately clear that Kawakubo, still in her early 30s, is a ferocious and absolutely fearless player. The Chaconne is one of the most towering works in the repertoire, and it tends to eat lesser violinists alive. But Kawakubo turned in an electrifying and extraordinarily powerful performance, shorn of all dross and shimmering with elemental mysteries: 15 minutes of pure musical magnificence.

The rest of the evening seemed designed to balance the monumental Bach with more human-scaled works. Kawakubo was joined by the fine pianist Grace Cho for Mozart’s Sonata in E Minor, K. 304, and it was pure delight to watch Kawakubo — nostrils flaring, eyes a little wild — unleash its complex, perfect little storms. She has, it seems, just about everything: near-flawless technique, precise dramatic instincts and a naturalistic approach to phrasing. Combined with the rich sound of her 1779 Guadagnini (lent to her by the S&R Foundation, the backers of the series), it all made for a riveting performance.

Mozart’s graceful and more lighthearted Sonata in B-flat, K. 378 closed out the recital, which, though relatively brief, felt completely satisfying. Kawakubo responded to the standing ovation with Vittorio Monti’s slyly sensual “Czardas.” And adding to the evening’s many pleasures was an announcement that the Overtures series would be starting up again in November for a winter season — good news for the Washington chamber music scene.

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