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

Tuesday, August 5, Ottawa Chamberfest ’08

This Tuesday feast of music continued with concerts at 4 pm, 5 pm, and 8 pm. The first concert was part of a continuing tribute to Olivier Messiaen, with the dual pianos of Stéphane Lemelin [pictured here] and Andrew Tunis offering his amazing seven part “Visions de l’Amen.” This inspiring work was originally performed in 1943 by the duo of the composer himself, his hand damaged by cold during confinement in a Nazi prison camp, and his student/muse and wife-soon-to-be, Yvonne Loriod. The twin pianos depict first the creation, then the orbiting planets and their flirtatious interaction swelling through Messiaen’s signature choirs of songbird/angels toward majestic consummation.

The 5 pm concert was the fifth in the series:MUSIC OF OUR TIME. Pianist Jacynthe Riverin made herself quite at home with the East Indian musical current underlying the sonata by Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1982) entitled “Quattro Illustrazioni,” which depicts four metamorphoses of the Hindu Deity Vishnu. The four movements show Vishnu asleep as the body of the universe, as a wild boar on a destructive rampage through the world, as the majestic Rama, and as the meditative Krishna. Throughout, Riverin keeps pace with the subtlety and force of rhythms that emerge from ostinato notes, build into chords that erupt like sonic volcanic eruptions that gradually subside into a sea of celestial harmonies.

What stands out most in my mind of the subsequent pieces by 6 composers performed by as many musicians is the work of Rebecca Danard on clarinet. Her tone remained pure throughout a vigorous journey in a wide range of registers, and her control was as polished as anything I’ve heard. Ms. Danard performed a work that she commissioned from Ottawa composer Evan Ware (1977), entitled “Leaving”, and gave a world premiere to “TECO-TECO” by Silvia Rickard (1937). She was accompanied by pianist Frédéric Lacroix on “Dark Fire” by Elma Miller (1954), an original artist who combines composition with typography, and is, incidentally, a winner of the R. Murray Schaffer Prize.

Most notable among the 6 compositions was “Milosz Songs” by Pulitzer prize winning composer John Harbison (1938) with text by the eponymous Polish writer Czeslaw Milosz who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. This gripping piece was given an impressive performance by soprano Carolyn Schiller accompanied by Timothy Steeves on the piano. The last piece we enjoyed as evening fell was Gary Kulesha’s poetic “…and dark flowed by her like a river…” performed by Angela Park on piano and Ben Bowman on violin.

If this day was a musical feast, the ending of it was like a session with the finest imaginable brandy—namely, a concert by the Vienna Piano Trio. I was so looking forward to it that I left my camera and notebook at home and allowed myself the pleasure of just listening and enjoying the flow of music and stillness. (The photo here is of the VPTrio at a previous Chamberfest. Please click on it for a larger image.) . Nonetheless, I have a few things of value to add to this record, in the spirit of a happy diner would share the menu of a fabulous meal with friends.

The first half of the concert consisted of an even dozen pieces by contemporary composers, some of whom will be familiar to you, and if not, by all means make their acquaintance—look them up on the internet and check out their music. The composers are: Cristobal Halfter (1930), Harrisson Birdwhistle (1934). Georg Friedrick Hass (1953), Jay Schwartz (1965), Saed Haddad (1972), David Sawer (172), Johannes Maria Staud (1974), Friedrich Cerha (1926), Mauricio Sotelo (1961), Arvo Part (1935), Gyorgy Kurtag (1926-), and saving the best for last, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) and his unsurpassed “Trio in A minor for Violin Cello and Piano.” The second half of the concert was entirely devoted to an even more beautiful piece (if comparisons are at all possible)—the “Trio No.2 in E minor, Op. 67″ by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).

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