A week ago tomorrow was the latest free concert put on by the Musicians Club of Women at the Chicago Cultural Center. The Club featured violinist Alexandra Switala, with collaborative piano by Inah Chiu. The fact that Switala plays my instrument and the repertoire she chose made hers my favorite of the concerts in this series that I’ve had the pleasure of attending to date.
Switala is a Mexican American who grew up in Texas, where she began her performing career with the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra at the age of 13. Her numerous accolades include the Sphinx, Cooper, and Klein Competitions, and numerous media appearances. She’s also a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music – Hilary Hahn’s Alma Mater – where she studied with Ida Kavafian and Pamela Frank.
The program the young violinist chose was a treat – she began with a Sibelius piece – Souvenir from 6 pieces for violin and piano, which she played from memory. I’ve noticed that the performers in this series and in the magnificent (but open to the strolling public) Preston Bradley Hall at the Cultural Center can take some time to find their groove. She met the venue with aplomb and dazzled from the start.
Next up was Brahms magnificent Sonata Number 1 in G Major. It’s a beautiful work for the violin that I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing performed live before, and Switala played it magnificently. It’s technically complex, but also melodic, and her tone and colors throughout were a treat for the ears on a Monday afternoon.
She gave a true finale in the form of Camille Saint-Saens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, one of the famous and exceptionally challenging showpieces for the instrument. She dazzled the crowd thoroughly and totally nailed it. Her smile throughout the performance showed she was having as much fun as we were. And though she never addressed the crowd, her charming persona shined through.
Switala has a big career ahead, I’m sure.
I remain happy to have added these monthly Musicians Club of Women concerts to my list of the things that make living in downtown Chicago great. Next up is pianist Margaret Kim on October 23.
Thanks for reading.