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Violinist returning — with her sister

Duo to perform with pianist in program on the U. campus

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Salt Lake City has been seeing quite a lot of Ida Kavafian over the past two or three years, as the violinist/violist has appeared with the Orion String Quartet in the old Museum of Arts auditorium. And just last November, Kavafian and her husband, violist Steven Tenenbom, performed Mozart's Sinfonia concertante in Abravanel Hall with the Utah Symphony.

Kavafian returns to Utah this week in recital with her violinist sister Ani Kavafian and pianist Jonathan Feldman.

The program is one that she and her sister enjoy doing, Ida Kavafian said during a telephone interview with the Deseret News from her home in Connecticut. "It's a typical program for us, in which I play both violin and viola. And it's a diverse program. We try to include a lot of variety."

The concert includes music by Mozart, Bohuslav Martinu, Moritz Moszkowski, Pablo de Sarasate and Toru Takemitsu. "My sister and I commissioned Takemitsu to write a piece for our debut in Carnegie Hall in 1983," Kavafian said. Titled "Rocking Mirror Daybreak," Takemitsu's work consists of four short movements based on four different poems.

Of the other works on the program, Kavafian is particularly fond of the Mozart Duo for Violin and Viola, in which she plays the viola part. "The two duos for violin and viola that Mozart wrote show his genius," she said. "And being a viola player himself, he wrote gracefully for the viola."

The closing piece on the concert, Sarasate's "Navarra," has become a standard feature when the two sisters perform together. "This is a very virtuosic work, very difficult to play," Kavafian said. And, as with everything else Sarasate wrote, it's a definite crowd-pleaser as well.

Even though Kavafian and her sister have the same interests in music, they don't perform together as often as you might expect. "We try not to do too much together," Kavafian said. "We don't want to be labeled a sister act. We only do a few concerts together so that it stays rare. But we do love traveling with Jonathan. It's a great experience working with him. He's a great pianist and he's got a great sense of humor."

Although Kavafian performs regularly with orchestras, chamber music has been the main focus of her career. She was a founding member of TASHI, and for a number of years she was the violinist in the famed Beaux Arts Trio, which at the time also included pianist Menahem Pressler and cellist Peter Wiley.

Four years ago, Kavafian and her husband, along with Wiley and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott founded a new ensemble, Opus One. "This is a wonderful group. We started it in 1998, and we have a lot of fun with it. We love playing together."

But since everyone has other commitments (Tenenbom is a member of the Orion String Quartet, and Wiley replaced David Soyer two years ago on the Guarneri Quartet), there isn't too much time left over for Opus One. And that suits Kavafian just fine. "We don't play together that much, but that keeps it pretty rare, which we like."

And as if music isn't enough, Kavafian and her husband have also become accomplished breeders and trainers of Hungarian Vizsla dogs. As she explains it, it was almost by accident that they got involved in dog breeding. "It was music that really started it. I was at a music festival in Nova Scotia, and I just happened to see a dog that was a Vizsla. I was told by the dog's owner that the Vizsla is a good breed. He said that they're intelligent, affectionate and devoted. So I told him that if I ever could have a dog, it would be a Vizsla."

The man took Kavafian seriously and presented her with a Vizsla puppy, after having scoured everywhere to find one. "It was a complete surprise," Kavafian said, "but it turned out to be a good idea. That was 16 years ago, and we've been at it ever since."

The recital takes place in Libby Gardner Concert Hall on the University of Utah campus Saturday, Jan. 19, at 7:30 p.m. (This is a change from the originally scheduled date of Jan. 15.) Tickets are available in advance by calling 581-7100, or at the Gardner Hall box office the evening of the performance.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com