Monday, April 24, 2006

One-Day Music Fest

Well it was quite a Sunday - from rain to sunshine, from virtuoso violinists to great music - all around the Philadelphia area. I was quite happy to catch it all! (There's even more coming up this week! Keep an eye out in this space...)
My morning started redesigning Hal Weller's home page (you can see it here) - still a work in progress, but it's live and very different from the original.

Hal and John in Las Vegas at a Soiree

I then ran, got things ready and left for Philadelphia - to catch Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman in recital at the Kimmel Center.

Itzhak and Pinchas playing away!

They added Bartok Duos to their program - which pleased me to no end - and I've lost a bet to a friend on their encore, Shostakovich Duets (prelude, gavotte and waltz - oh so charming!) I thought they'd play Sarasate's Navarra.
Perlman is a violinist's violinist. He plays everything just right. The way a violinist should. I won't go into how musically things might be played (I always loved Stern's interpretations, or say Szeryng's Bach) but Itzhak is very special, and really the reason I play the violin.
Zukerman, despite all the talk about the Canadian orchestra and him, is still just amazing. I felt like I had a lesson just watching his bow arm - so relaxed! His tone and articulation was spot on - and much warmer than I remember (or have heard in the past.)
Needless to say, Rohan deSilva is just outstanding and a great pianist - and a perfect foil for the two of them (Perlman, who announced all the changes/movements on stage - for the Shosty encore, said "This is for TWO violins and A piano."
Afterwards a walk to Rittenhouse Square was lovely, and a quick beer and philly cheesesteak at the Fox and Hound set things right and gave me some more energy for my next concert.

End of the Orchestra 2001 concert in Lang Hall, Swarthmore College

I was able to meet Augusta Read Thomas (pictured on the right) in person (I should commision her for a work, "Long Ride in a Slow Machine", now that she has ridden in the Land Yacht! And we kept missing the turns, and found out that the borough of Swarthmore is a dry city, doh!) We've emailed and talked on the phone for interviews, but it was most excellent to put a person with a voice and her music. Orchestra 2001 played in Lang Concert Hall at Swarthmore College, a concert entitled ONE-DAY MUSIC FESTIVAL: MEET THE COMPOSERS. And what a concert - all new pieces, many from the area (Gusty was the furthest away - but her soloist had graduated from Swarthmore) I saw George Crumb come in, and we talked at intermission, and made sure he and Augusta saw each other. He was really sweet, catching many of his students works (including a previous 70th birthday tribute by Gerald Levinson) and Crumb was like a proud papa, greeting all of them at intermission and afterwards. Of note was a wonderful song, Satori by Jay Reise with the stunning soprano Laura Heimes (pictured on the left).

As for Carillon Sky, Augusta's work played by Baird Dodge, it's outstanding. I've asked her for a violin part, and will have to learn it. It is a brilliant violin concerto, a mere 8 minutes long, but with the craft and skill that for me, puts her at the very top of composers for our generation. This work, that is a mere three weeks old, speaks to the very heart and mind of the listener. Oh, and it's so original - an OPTIONAL cadenza for the soloist. When speaking beforehand, she said much more eloquently and clearly than I write here, the last minute of the work, Baird might or might not improvise a cadenza, it's up to him. It harkens back to baroque in that performance practice and yet is the most modern tools and harmony available. Gusty says she likes to think in minatures and condense a whole violin concerto into mere minutes and one movement - but I think that takes the maximal effort and vision.

Augusta Read Thomas and George Crumb (photo by me)

John, Gusty and George

(photo by concert-goer not familiar with my camera, so I tried to salvage...hence the effect.)

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