Friday, October 14, 2011

Listening to Handel and Vivaldi

Just wrote a review on Cleveland Classical of a concert by Apollo's Fire, Cleveland's baroque orchestra. It featured the wonderful singing of male soprano/countertenor Michael Maniaci. See a sample of that singing! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jenny Lin

What a fabulous recital I just heard at Lorain County Community College! Or, to be honest, the first half of the recital, as I had to leave to get some work done. Jenny Lin, a very charismatic pianist, played three "triplets," as she called them: interveavings of works by Shostakovich and Bach, selections from those composers' Preludes and Fugues.

It turns out that Shostakovich, inspired by a recital in Germany of Bach, went home to dash off 24 Preludes and Fugues a la Bach, apparently not in the chromatic order that Bach did them, but obviously derived from Bach's manic sense of cyclicity.

She, Jenny, obviously loves these works, and was trying to get us to see the 1950s Soviet writer in the same framework as the great 1730s (?) German. If Bach invented modern music, as a friend of mine asserted this morning, this Shostakovich was a worthy consequence to his invention.

The Shostakovich pieces were warm, funny, biting, passionate by turns. The great revelation for me, she saved to the last, the Shostakovich Number 24 (the last in his cycle, apparently), a passionate prelude followed by an incredible fugue with a disarmingly simple subject of open fifths, almost childlike in its repetitions, but then... amazing in its potential for development. It seemed to me as if the fugue went through all the keys; as if saying farewell to the project of the Preludes and Fugues, which, at least in Bach, set out deliberately to do just that, go through all the keys. Here's a video of a pianist named David Jalbert playing it. You'll notice that the same theme that in the Prelude is heroic becomes the simple fugue theme.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Playing Mendelssohn

Last night the orchestra I play in performed at Lorain County Community College. We played Schubert (fifth symphony), a new piece by a friend and double bass player in the orchestra (Dan Schell, a vigorous Bartok-reminiscent concerto for orchestra), and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

Playing the concerto was a musical high point for me, a peak experience.

Why? Perhaps one reason was that I was coming off a cold and feeling new life, so anything fun was good.

But more deeply, it had to do with the soloist's approach. Andrea Belding is a great young collaborative violinist (that term, "collaborative," is usually applied to pianists who know how to groove with another player). She's out there as a soloist, playing big or hushed as needed, leading the gig as a soloist needs to do, but she's also constantly checking in. If we look, she's moving in the tempo, if we listen, she's setting us a rhythm or a figuration that gives us a new energy.

So there I am in the second violins, trying like heck to finger the hard parts and hush up when I need to, and be there for the important moments, and suddenly I realize, she's connecting with me... And with the clarinetist behind me, and the cello section, and the conductor, of course. For a split second, she and I play an eighth note in sync, and I know she knows that we did.

It's chamber music: that nerve-tingling sense of connection. It's not the composer dictating what we play; he just wrote the notes. It's we who figure out, here and now, how we play them.

And that's the gift of chamber music, even in an orchestra of forty players, that we're each involved.

In the ideal world, it always happens. In practice, I sometimes (often?) forget to notice.

Last night, I noticed, and for me it made all the difference.

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Location:Edgemeer Pl,Oberlin,United States