Review: Beautiful music from a beautiful partnership

2012-11-18T20:51:00Z Review: Beautiful music from a beautiful partnershipBy Cathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 18, 2012 8:51 pm  • 

Steven Moeckel and Paula Fan celebrated their 10th anniversary as musical partners and friends on Sunday with a behemoth 12-hour marathon concert.

I was only able to catch the concerto segment in the mid-afternoon and part of the chamber strings with Moeckel’s musical friends from the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and Phoenix Symphony. But what I saw was inspired.

Doing one concerto can be a monumental accomplishment. Doing two back to back? That’s simply unheard of.

But Moeckel and Fan didn’t just do two concerti: They picked two technical workhorses — Brahms lone violin concerto written in D-major and Tchaikovsky’s Concerto in D-major, arguably one of the most technically difficult works for violin.

Both were written for orchestra, but on the Scottish Rite Temple stage Sunday afternoon, it was just Moeckel and Fan. The sound they created needed no other musical complement; it filled the downtown temple and spilled out into the lobby, where a few stray volunteers and a couple late-comers nibbled on complimentary sandwich wraps and Le Cave’s doughnuts while sipping cocktails and juice.

It is a given that there will be near flawless musical magic when Moeckel and Fan — who perform as Duo Amabile — share a stage. They are in tune to each other’s inclinations and know instinctively how to react to one another. They fall into a rhythm that from the audience looks almost second nature, as if they finish each other’s musical sentences. In the intimate confines of the temple with about 50 people looking on, Sunday felt like they were playing to each of us.

And what glorious playing it was. Moeckel’s violin swooned and sang in dreamy pleas in the first movement of the Brahms. He was pristine throughout Brahms’ multiple stops and rapid scale passages, matching the varied rhythms with ease. That’s not to say Moeckel didn’t break a sweat. He ended up changing out of his bright purple shirt into a black one for the Tchaikovsky.

The Russian work presented its own challenges from the pyrotechnical first movement that builds into a long, dynamic rhythmic explosion to the whirling energy of the finale . Moeckel seemed so comfortably at ease as he took the piece from its breathtaking leaps and stops to a sweeping ballet-like passage that folded into that energetic final passage that literally took his breath away.

For both works, Fan had the yeoman’s task of creating a sound big enough to sub in for a full orchestra. It would be unfair to say Fan, the longtime principal pianist for the TSO, made it look easy; her job Sunday was not easy. It was a workout. But the result was sublime. Her technical precision was matched by her passion, and what we heard in the audience was a beautifully constructed, passionate interpretation that complemented her partner.

At the end of both works, the audience gave the pair a rousing standing ovation.

Sunday’s marathon — six two-hour concerts — included performances by more than 100 Tucson high-school musicians and vocalists as well as a handful of Moeckel and Fan’s professional colleagues. Proceeds from the event benefited Open Inn, which assists at-risk and homeless teens and their families.

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The Caliente and Features departments of the Star bring you the latest from the music, art, theater and dining world in Tucson.