Sunday, October 23, 2011

Joy Sonata

Last Wednesday, GH and I heard the London Symphony Orchestra, led by Sir Colin Davis, performed an all-Sibelius program at Carnegie Hall. Nikolaj Znaider soloed in the Violin Concerto in D minor, and he was terrific, warm and delicate in the quiet passages. I have his performance of Elgar's Violin Concerto on my iPad, and listen to it over and over again. For some reason I did not care so much for Symphony No. 2 performed after the intermission.

It was a rather more unconventional program last night at Alice Tully. A part of White Light Festival, "A Homage to J. S. Bach" looked at how Russian composers have been influenced by Bach's musical forms while using a modern tonal idiom. The program was headlined by Gidon Kremer, who played with beautiful intonation a chaconne from one of Bach's partitas. I also enjoyed very much Shostakovich's Piano Trio 2, which Kremer played with cellist Giedre Dirvanauskaite and pianist Andrius Zlabys, both from Lithuania. Kremer, an American, was originally from Riga, Latvia. The three musicians melded their sounds together into a whole while retaining their distinctive parts.

Two other Russian composers were also heard on the program. Both worked unknown during Soviet rule but now are being heard more and more in the West. "Dedication to J.S. Bach for violin and piano (quasi echo)" by Valentyn Sylvestrov was performed with solo violin that night. Sofia Gubaidulina's Chaconne for piano called for fiendish technique, very capably met by Zlabys. Her Sonata for violin and cello (“Rejoice!”) unusually juxtaposed the string instruments' normal tones with harmonics. She explained that this leap from one realm to one higher above is, for her, the definition of joy.

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