Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category

Stanley Fefferman’s Chamberfest Diary, August 5, 2008:Part One

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

MUSIC OF OUR TIME 4: Quatuor Bozzini

The Quatuor Bozzini has a motto that is also a challenge: “New music was composed in the last 10 years. If it was composed more than 10 years ago, it is old music.” It was definitely a challenge to listen to the music they played at the 2 pm concert this day. First off was “Nameless Garden (2003) by Thomas Stiegler (1956-), a German, Freiburg-trained colleague of the Bozzini first violin Clemens Merkel. This is a kind of ‘pictures at an exhibition’ piece, the pictures being by German painter Otto Piltz (1864 – 1910), the music moving in short sections as if from room to room. One’s first impression is of rhythmic scratchings, squeakings, silent bowings and an oddly erotic whining rising to an orgasmic climax.

The next two pieces were by Japanese minimalist composer Jo Kondo (1947-) whose works have been performed by London’s Philharmonia Orchestra and recorded by Deutsche Grammophon. We heard two of his mathematically constructed pieces. “Hypsotony” published in 1989–and so ‘old music’– consists of a melodic line that is chopped up and distributed throughout the piece. The sounds are like two-stroke koto charnel-ground music. The ensemble makes much use of glissandos, crescendos and decrescendos, producing a strong effect. The second Kondo piece, “Oneiric Prosody”, a string quartet commissioned by the Bozzini, had its world premiere here this day. The predominant harmonies sounded like organ tones and brought to mind a kelp garden alive with sea-otters swaying beneath the play of tidal currents, relaxing, like breathing.

Next came “Trip (2008)” by Christopher Butterfield (1952), once a student of Rudolf Komorous and now on the Faculty of his alma mater, B.C,’s University of Victoria. Despite an opening section that sounded a lot like the string quartet tuning up, a rhythm began to assert itself and a nice bit of melody at the tempo of a scherzo that devolved into some scratchy spooky parts before concluding with a long, lazy, lovely passage. It occurs at this point to notice how often miminalist music has the almost generic quality of being able to produced tones that defy monotony and move the mind in the direction of a steady state of relaxation and hold it there, again in defiance of monotony, by the strength of the hypnotic power of repetition.

This afternoon’s concert concluded with two string quartets by Matteo Fargion (1961), an Italian who has made an international name for himself collaborating as composer and performer in works for theatre and dance. The Bozzini performed his “String Quartet No. 3 (1996)–‘old music’–, and “String Quartet No.4 (2003). Fargion’s music is melodic, polyphonic, energetic mixing sounds of minimalism and pre-baroque. The overall flavour is of perpetual motion blended with hoe-down fiddle-contest music. Very pleasant.

One must congratulate the Quatuor Bozzini on their total commitment to exploring the world of new music on our behalf. It may be many years before concerts like these become less of a puzzle and more of a treat. So be it, and more power to the Bozzini.

Stanley Fefferman’s Chamberfest Diary, August 4, 2008

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

The noon concert began the series: MUSIC OF OUR TIME. Roman Borys [click on the photo for a larger image], the executive arm of The Gryphon Trio who took on artistic direction of this Chamberfest and made it really cheerful, joined with Annalee Patipatankoon and Robert Cram on flute [click HERE for a Cram image] in playing “Trio for Flute, Violin and Cello” by Harry Somers. This neo-baroque polyphony of voicings arranged in 12 tone rows is surprisingly lyrical: fluty in a Debussyesque way, and sprightly during the third movement in the sophisticated way of Poulenc and Ravel.

Duo Concertante–Nancy Dahn [click on the photo for a larger image] and Timothy Steeves on piano–gave us an unabashedly emotional treatment of “Supernatural Love” by Katie Agocs (1975-). The music speaks of loss and redemption through supernatural love. The moods vary throughout the movements. The first is spectral, wounded, desolate, ironic and cold. The second is open, warm, rhapsodic and elegant. The third is emancipated, explosive, monolithic, nattering frantically like music from a charnel ground. Vivid and strong work.

Geoff Nuttal [click on the photo for a larger image], violinist for the St. Lawrence String Quartet, introduced the Canadian premiere of a work composed by his colleague at Stanford, Jonathan Berger (1954-). Entitled, “String Quartet No. 4, The Bridal Canopy”, the music is inspired by a story from the Nobel Prize winning novelist S.Y. Agnon, and concerns the travels of a man searching for a suitable husband for his daugher.

Typically for a St. Lawrence performance, the first movement is exciting, dynamic, passionate. Nuttall’s playing, in particular, is flamboyant. The second movement opens with a blast from a shofar slowly fading into a whiney, discordant, Hassidic melody that grows sad, faint and ghostly and ends on a cello solo. The third and final movement, a scherzo and coda, begins abruptly in a chaos of sound that develops through a twittering pizzicato to a wild ending. The coda starts slowly, contemplatively, develops a beautiful nigun and closes with a lovely solo from the first violin that fades into silence.

“Horn Trio” by TSO resident composer Gary Kulesha (1954-) is a more traditional sounding piece featuring James Sommerville. An opening fantasia like flowing leaves is rendered spectral and spooky by Gwen Hoebig’s delicate harmonics on the piano. The middle movement is a rhythmic scherzo reminiscent of Hindemith’s ‘Sextet’ with it’s busy voices. A melancholy series of cadenzas flow slowly from the piano followed by some finely controlled minor blasts echoing from the horn. The piece resolves nicely in the finale with a march that drives inexorably towards an energetic close. Very fine.

R.Murray Schafer at 75 was celebrated this evening with a concert where 5 ensembles totaling 25 musicians performed 4 of his compositions including the world premier of Schafer’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano”, and “Isfahan”, conducted by Alain Trudel. Trudel’s presence in this role extended the meaning of ‘chamber music’. Schafer is, as someone remarked, “a wild and crazy guy” of a composer. His music is acoustically multidimensional, avant-garde, and listenable. Inspiring to hear and worth further study. [click on the photo for a larger image]

Stanley Fefferman’s Chamberfest Diary, August 1, 2008

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

This day ended in triumph. The pleasure of music making triumphed over the music of pain we have been writing about these past few days. The prime music maker is violinist/fiddler Gilles Apap—one of those people from whom music flows spontaneously, unpredictably, joyfully, without self-consciousness or boundaries. He appears totally confident and totally into having fun stirring things up with his fiddle. Whether it’s klezmer or concerto, jigs, reels, kitchen music, or Bartok Apap makes music like a trickster makes mischief. With a wink and a grin, sounds that you never heard before morph into great classics. He had his ‘band’ (a dozen players of a chamber orchestra) whistling a few bars of a theme introducing a rousing and powerful version of ‘Spring’ from Vivaldi’s “Seasons.”

Apap also played an improvised program with accordianiste Myriam Lafarge: tunes from Ireland, Brittany, Québec and Bulgaria, to name a few as indication of the range of their learning. Lafarge is also a virtuoso, albeit a shy one, but her ability to cover Apap’s moves never flagged for a moment. He, in his grand and generous fashion, kept putting her in the spotlight, which also endeared him enormously to the audience. This was an evening exhilarating pleasure.

Earlier in the day, Barry Shiffmann joined some of his former colleagues—Steven Sitarski, Desmond Hoebig, and Andrew Tunis, for a performance of Brahms’ “Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60.” Despite the steamy venue and the hard pews, the music was moving and much appreciated. Brahms composed this at a time in his life when he was very stressed: Robert Schumann, his mentor was drifting into the insanity that would hospitalize him for the final few years of his life. Brahms was ‘dying’ of his unconsummated love for Clara Schumann. This quartet was an outlet for and perhaps a resolution of his torment. He put the finished work away for twenty years and rewrote it extensively before joining in the premiere in 1875.

The work is popularly subtitled “Werther” in reference to Goethe’s character who kills himself for love. The subtitle is apt in describing the sigh of pain that opens the first movement who’s minor key moan is not really relieve by modulations to C major in this and the following movement. However, the lovely opening cello solo of the third movement is considered the expression of a ‘letting go’ of Clara and expands through a series of animated cantabile melodies towards a finale full of charm and warmth and a certain loftiness of tone.

Stanley Fefferman’s Chamberfest ’08 Diary, July 30-31

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Omar Daniel’s “The Flaying of Marsyas,” was performed in the comfort of the new Canadian Museum of Civilization. Marsyas, played by the composer, hung upside down suspended half naked by his ankles inside a metal frame and wired with electrodes connecting him to an electronic effects machine run by Mark Nerenberg. All the while, and for a good long while, Erica Raum, barefoot, circled Marsyas as he writhed in agony, and played Daniel’s ritualized score on her electrified violin. Hard to take, and unforgettable. This performance piece in which the composer is a willing victim says a lot about the commitment of an artist to his work. It may help to know something about the story Daniel’s work is based on.

There are many versions of the story known from Antiquity as “The Flaying of Marsyas.” The one I prefer sees Marsyas, a satyr who is expert in the double-piped reed flute, as an artist great enough to arouse the jealousy of a god. It is the lyre-playing god Apollo who challenges and defeats Marsyas by a ruse and condemns Marsyas to have the living hairy hide flayed off his body. The tears shed by those who mourned Marsyas created a river that flows to this day in the part of Greece formerly known as Phrygia.

While we are on the topic of music and pain, bass-baritone Daniel Lichti gave a wonderful recital of Schubert’s cycle of Lieder, “Die Winterreise,” accompanied by his colleague Leslie De’ Ath. Twenty-four beautiful songs tell the story of a lover condemned to live out a loveless life as if he were a street musician barefoot in the wintry city. This seasoned pair of recitalists have performed “Winterreise” worldwide for many years and do it smooth and genuine as silk. Analekta has just issued a most welcome recording of this hour-long work that I look forward to hearing.

Stanley Fefferman’s Chamberfest Diary, July 29-30, 2008.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008. Ottawa

The Keller Quartet of Budapest did an awesome performance of Gyorgi Ligeti’s sixteen movement “String Quartet No. 1, ‘Metamorphoses Nocturnes’”, a work of dizzying complexity and power, followed by a brilliant soother, Tchaikovsky’s “String Sextet in D Minor, Op. 70, ‘Souvenir de Florence’”, assisted in this by violinist Douglas McNab and Cellist Denise Djokic. The Keller’s opening piece, Bartok’s first string quartet in A minor inspired me to gather a few words on details.

The opening bars, a double canon, sound like a mournful sigh, expressing the torn heart of the twenty-something composer who had come to the painful end of his first serious love affair. Out of this lost love, and out of Bartok’s ongoing artistic struggle to break away from the prevailing ‘German cultural outlook’ and to find his own voice, his opening sigh rises through rhythmic figures of great intensity to a fiery outcry in the low register from Zoltan Gal’s viola that is calmed by a quiet quasi parental dialogue between first violin and cello. One is struck by Bartok’s total vulnerability in this movement. The Allegretto builds on motifs from the first movement and includes a lovely waltz like melody, a rhythmic pizzicato passage in the Judit Szabo’s cello, and some rustic music with a folk flavour. The finale is where Bartok finally manages to introduce, rather forcefully, some real Hungarian folk-dance elements, and it is as if the sighing lover of the first movement here fully returns to life.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008. Ottawa.

The Gryphon Trio gave a noonday concert to premiere Heather Schmidt’s “Lunar Reflections”. This totally attractive piece is built on the idea of five kinds of moon: a Blue (once in a while) Moon; a Pink (April flowers) Moon; a dark hungry December Wolf Moon; a lovely February Snow Moon; and the Thunder Moon of July. The performance was an unequivocal success with the audience, oneself being no exception. It would be wonderful to hear this piece again and give it more consideration.

Paul Marlyn, the cellist, joined Stéphane Lemelin at the piano in a moving meditation by Ernest Bloch well known as “Hebrew Meditations.”  The program moved from strength to strength, concluding with the NAC Winds and with Lemelin’s delightful performance of Beethoven’s “Quintet in E-flat Major for Winds and Piano.”  Inspired by Mozart’s “Quintet in E-flat (K.452)”, Beethoven’s highly successful work opens in a slow and dignified fashion, moving into a relaxed and playful Allegro light in mood. Lemelin introduces the long-phrased melody of the second movement that is taken up by the winds and ornamented in a minor key. The concluding Rondo, which contains a short piano cadenza, is high-spirited— a good ending to this noonday concert for those music lovers who are going back to work, as well as those of us lucky enough to grab a bite of lunch and stroll over to the next concert venue of the afternoon.

CHAMBERFEST ‘07 : by Stanley Fefferman. An Illustrated Diary. Page 5

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 5 pm.

MUSIC OF ISRAEL, part 1
Jimmy Briere, piano, Guy Yehuda, clarinet
Mordechai Seter (1916-1994) “Monodrama for Clarinet and Piano”

Prelude: Slow, low piano below a few casual clarinet riffs: –evening– darkness falling, silence.

Recitative: Piano like stone in water sends out gradual ripples and clarinet plays above it like a shepherd musing—“Where are you?” Excitement, alarm; clarinet rising to squeaks and falling to chalumeau then softly pacifying as fear fades and the two-note theme repeats–“Where are you?”

Arioso: Poulencish, playful scampering of goats that vanish, reappear and vanish. Piano thunder, clarinet ominous as approaching storm. Wind picks up, disturbing tension builds.

Secco and Aria: Long sustained sweet note of clarinet over drop drop dropping of piano notes in somber eerie mood—serious—too shrill and dissonant to be pleasant. Drama of introspection modulates to peaceful rest.

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Wednesday, July 25, 8 pm.

GRYPHON TRIO
Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin; Roman Borys, cello; Jamie Parker, piano


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Mozart, “Trio No.1 in B-flat (divertimento), K. 254.”

Allegro assai: Elegant theme, dramatic, tensile like “Figaro”. Sense of elaborate social toils and escaping therefrom by elusive childlike moves with unpredictable changes of pace.

Adagio: Dignified search for union. Yearning heart in ceremonial dress. Good taste in the mouth. Inspires stillness.

Rondo-tempo di Menuetto: Busier world here, not frantic but moving to a stronger pulse—less personal. Dialogue as in a rendezvous at a civil gathering, with the odd tension emerging and being staged. Playful games of courtship and seduction. Male female discourse among social prattle.

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Marja Mozetich (1948), “Piano Trio”.

Slow opening, mellow and lovely—in a romantic style. Strings sighing with piano stepping lightly behind. Strings surge richly, piano making a drama of it. Male female dialogue of cello and violin on a field of piano sounding like an old fashioned wartime radio drama theme based on Rachmaninoff updated by Phillip Glass.

Deep dark tones and hectic chords develop the passion tinged with energy, perhaps, anger or some emotion of equal force. Thin sounding passage — a string-line stretched to fineness, harmonic quivering that comes to rest.

Piano initiates a moonlit calm, a romantic passage of responses between the strings backed by a flow of piano notes, builds to a new level of passion—swirls of it, rippling out and out and out, building force like a river running towards its destination, spreading in a peaceful expanse with ease and assurance.

Cello begins a new dialogue. Piano energizes the tempo and rhythm until it is a mighty force, a self propelled engine of relationship with never a dissonant chord. A kind of dangerous Tango beats out rich texture of vivid tropical forest colours. The piano, unfased, holds the centre.

Return to home theme, repeated to sustain familiarity, and, fade away.

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Ravel, “Piano Trio in A minor.”

Light melody ascending and descending on piano, charming arc-like ostinato theme, popular in feeling, like a movie theme.

Piano beats out a drama: theme penetrates life of the city. Theme expands, diaphanously floating like a fantasy—a lightshow play of images projected onto stonework and banners of public buildings. Theme sustained all the way through, recurring like a memory refreshing itself, drawn out to evanescent thinness.

Energetically surging. Cello plucks pizzicato with great enjoyment. Violin refers back to the melody. Abrupt ending.
Slow Satie-like low register figures descending the keyboard in a slightly oriental manner. Piano proceeds at an even pace soloing soberly about a kingdom in harmony that cello and violin resolve.
2nd theme is orientalish, but livelier, redolent of the boulevards and chestnuts in blossom where lovers rendezvous in sidewalk cafes amid reports of great events stirring on the border—perhaps a war.

The piano plays wakeful notes, prelude to thunder and passages of sustained buildup of force that possesses the art of quickly concealing itself, only to re-emerge and seek a stage towards the end of the situation where it will assume command.