CHAMBERFEST ‘07 : by Stanley Fefferman. An Illustrated Diary. Page 3

Monday, July 23, 12 pm.
Cecilia String Quartet

This young, female ensemble generates a lot of excitement, partly because their programme typically includes drama built on extreme contrasts of mood, tempo, and dynamics, and partly because they are willing to get emotionally involved with the dramatic turns of the music.

The ‘Allegro’ of Brahms’s “String Quartet in C minor, opus 51, no.1” is passionate, complex, nervous, interestingly orchestrated, especially towards the end where passion modulates to tenderness.

Despite seeming a bit spaced at this noon performance, the Cecilias showed impeccable timing. They elicited from their instruments rich tones that were sensitive and nuanced. Notable in the ‘Adagio’ was the work of violin and cello laying on deft harmonic strokes across the melodic flow, brooding, ruminative, rhapsodic. After a shift in the third movement to a happier mood, dancey, light and humorous, the ‘Finale’, referring thematically back to the earlier movements, opens with a tragic chord and the movement proceeds darkly to its conclusion.

Shostakovich’s 9th Quartet E-flat major, opus 117, meanders into focus like a gathering of snakes in the grass. It is by turns tortured, airy, enigmatic, solemn, harsh, bouncy, melancholy, and also manages to rock like Heavy Metal. Prominent in the ‘Scherzo’ is a passage that recalls the galloping theme from the “William Tell Overture” going like a heart in mild tachycardia.

What a change of mood in the programme, from depressed civilility of Brahms to the spooky, paranoid, hyperpolitical view of life in the Stalinist USSR. I doubt that in India this low energy vibration would be considered appropriate for the noon hour.

Nonetheless, The Cecilias generated a standing ovation and were rewarded further with an announcement that they had won the Galaxie Young Performers Prize.

Monday, July 23, 2 pm.
Louis Lortie and Helene Mercier
Two Pianos: Grieg and Schumann

Schumann, “Six Etudes in the Form of a Canon for Two Pianos, opus 56.”

Mercier sits to the right of Lortie, working the lower register accompaniment. The piece opens in a mood of archly romantic nostalgia, characteristic of Schumann: sounds like it was picked up by Lloyd Weber in “Memories”. Much sighing and melodic dialogue, sometimes happy and animated, subsiding into a slower, darker mode. Beautifully crafted. The odd time Mercier gets a melodic solo, her touch is refreshingly light.

A livelier mood ensues — romantic pastoral with a martial air. It is Schumann’s, “Pictures of the East, for Four Hands, opus 66.” Livelier still is Grieg’s “Norwegian Dances for Four Hands, opus 35.” It begins in D minor, passes through A major, G major, D major. Lots of notes running at a furious gallop morphing into a Keystone Cop Car Chase sequence. Great fun, contrasting a heavy-footed march with the fleet footed chase through a slightly dissonant space.

“Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, No.1, for Four Hands, opus 23”, raises the question of the pleasure of the familiar. What makes a piece a dear old chestnut that is “carried alive into the heart” whenever you hear it instead of reducing one to yawns and tears of boredom?

Monday, July 23, 5 pm.
Jasper Wood, violin, and David Jalbert, piano.

David Jalbert plays a new Dinuk Wijeratne composition, “Colour Study in Rupak Taal.” The piece has a 7 beat ground-based theme repeated in every bar like a raga, with a melody on top. It is a raw and anguished piece that seems to rack Jalbert with its intensity.

Jasper Wood follows with Eugene Ysaye’s, “Violin Sonata No.2 in A minor, opus 27, no.2.” Wood adopts a fighter’s stance and begins the 1st movement–‘Prelude, Obsession Poco Vivace’– at an explosively fast virtuosic tempo. The middle movements are a complaint, tender and quiet, followed by a touching ‘Sarabande’ in which Wood develops a bagpipish lament with drone, reminding us how beautiful are the vulnerable and wounded among us, when you can get into the details. The piece ends with a forceful scraping of the bow as the music fades into the ghostly realm.

Monday, July 23, 8 pm.
Angela Hewitt, piano

Angela Hewitt plays the nine parts of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s (1683-1764)“Suite in E minor”. Each of the nine consists of a lovely melody entwined by elaborate traceries of sound.

She smiles as she plays with superb articulation and force, bringing to vividness detail through contrast. She is regal. It becomes evident that this is not a mere performance but the full sharing of a totally private musical universe that Miss Hewitt is offering to her audience. A kind of miracle.

Her Schumann “Piano Sonata No.1 in F-sharp minor, opus 11” is definitive. It is the music of restoration. She sketches the composer’s longing for intimacy, his immersion in nostalgic memory of glory and pain. The bliss of love is no sooner described, then it fades. Sadness follows, and the resolve to recapture it arises. There is the assault on the gates of memory to restore the life that was, and as that hope fades, comes the inevitable subsidence into melancholy and grief.

The evening concludes as the triumph of Miss Hewitt’s supreme ability to appreciate her composers and bring them to a brilliant level of expression.

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