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

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