Review: Dotys deliver an exuberant evening of music

By Richard Robbins, for the News Tribune on Feb 23, 2016 at 11:34 p.m.

An eclectic program and masterful playing made for an enjoyable concert at Tuesday evening’s Matinee Musicale performance, featuring double bassist Karl Doty, violinist Liesl Schoenberger Doty, and pianist Jeanne Doty.

The audience assembled at the Mitchell Auditorium was treated to a performance that was both a homecoming and a family affair. Pianist Jeanne Doty, retired piano faculty at the University of Minnesota Duluth and a noted collaborative pianist, is the mother of Karl Doty. Karl Doty, a 2003 grad of Duluth East, has toured as a bassist with the Grammy award-winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and is a founding member of the Grammy-nominated chamber ensemble A Far Cry. Violinist Liesl Doty, who is married to Karl, has appeared as a recitalist and chamber musician across the United States and Europe – and is an award-winning fiddler, to boot.

Drama and virtuosity were on full display in the first selection of the evening, the Grand Duo Concertante by Giovanni Bottesini (1821-1889). Bottesini, possibly the most famous double bassist of his time, was also a conductor of opera, and his fiery Grand Duo shares much in common with the stage works that he would have known. Following a majestic piano introduction by Jeanne Doty, the rhapsodic themes traded back and forth by Karl and Liesl Doty shifted rapidly between the tragic and the joyful; Karl nimbly showed off the highest ranges of the bass, and Liesl’s violin playing exuded warmth and confidence.

Karl and Liesl Doty followed this with selections from a composition by the modern double bass virtuoso, Edgar Meyer (b. 1960). The three movements of the Concert Duo for Violin and Bass featured in the program blended elements of jazz, bluegrass, and modern contrapuntal techniques, evoking an atmosphere both moody and spare. The chugging rhythms of the Prequel and the bluesy, bending dialogue of Movement 2 were hypnotic and fun; the final movement played (Movement 1) featured a haunting and plaintive canon.

All of the Dotys were featured on “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires,” by Argentine master Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). Piazzolla’s mature works embody the spirit of the tango, and this work is no exception, as evidenced by the pathos and romanticism bleeding through each of the four movements (“Summer,” “Autumn,” “Winter” and “Spring,” a la Vivaldi). The entire work is bathed in emotion, and the playing of Karl and Liesl Doty was filled with passion and heartache, particularly in “Summer” and “Winter.” Jeanne Doty’s fine piano playing was featured during a long passage in “Winter;” a particularly fine moment in that movement was marred by a distracting coughing fit from a member of the audience, but the Dotys soldiered on with good humor and grace.

Liesl Doty’s fantastic fiddling took center stage for the last set in the program, which featured classic fiddle tunes. Liesl flew through the set with ease, and her rich tone and sure rhythmic sense made for a great end to the evening. The couple closed with a piece composed by Karl Doty, “Wideopen,” and a fun encore (Yankee Doodle Dandy, ostensibly in honor of the election year). The affection that the performers had for one another, and for their audience, was palpable.

The 116th season of Matinee Musicale continues on March 29,  when the Artymiw-Keefe-Smith Trio appear with Osmo Vänskä at the Mitchell Auditorium.

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