Sunday, September 10, 2006

Old Friends, New Sounds

Friday's excursion to Philadelphia was delightful! Yummy Thai/Malaysian food with Jennifer and caught up with her about compositions and life. Definitely check out Aqua if you're in old town Philadelphia - the staff are top notch and the food killer. Oh and its in a comfortable setting and reasonable prices to boot. It was also neat to hear about the new Piano Concerto for Lang Lang - I'm looking forward to next May and the National Philharmonic.
Saturday evening was also a meeting of friends and a world premiere. Concertante opened their tenth season (not much fanfare about being around for ten years, although the start of One plus Five IS exciting) at the Rose Lehrman Arts Center at HACC. I came early and met folks at a reception/funderariser in the rose garden - absolutely wonderful.
Many friends were about and I ended up sitting with Dick Strawser and Stuart & Marti Malina in the back row. Interestingly enough you can read Dick's and Stuart's take on the concert here and here respectively.
On the program was Boccherini, Liebermann and Elgar. I, of course, couldn't help joking about playing some drinking games with chamber music - perhaps sangria with Boccherini, taking a shot when you hear an open harmonic, open c string and all sorts of silly ideas. (Later another friend suggested "spin the viola" and "strip chamber music!") The Boccherini was light and fluffy with dazzling notes from X, the first violinist and Alexis, the first cellist -a great opener.
Lowell Liebermann's Chamber Concerto Number Two is indeed dark. You can hear the composer talk with me about the work here. [mp3 file - 3 minutes long]
It's a strong work after Bartok and Shostakovich, in three broad sections. Liebermann separates low strings (celli & viola 2) with the upper strings (solo violin, violin 2 and viola 1) to very effective use, as well as contrasts of ensemble (tremolo tutti strings and soaring legato lines for the solo violin.) The middle section is tight and taunt, with a return of the main motive and third section. The abrupt ending is somewhat of a suprise - like the rather stark piece itself. It weighs in at a mere 12 minutes, but takes the listener on quite a journey.
The program ended with the Piano Quintet by Sir Edward Elgar. It's not a great piece, nor is it a bad piece - there are reasons that it is not well known: it's just not memorable. It was well played by pianist Anton Nel and Concertante.
Afterwards the audience met the artists out in the garden again, this time with coffee and desserts. It was nice seeing and hearing Concertante at HACC, they'll be back there in May - until then, catch them next time at Whitaker Center - you'll be glad you did!

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