Jon Kimura Parker

Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val

Pasatiempo - - FRONT PAGE - James M. Keller The New Mex­i­can

The Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val moves into ac­tion on Sun­day evening, July 19, when it launches its 43rd sea­son. The or­ga­ni­za­tion will again be op­er­at­ing within its com­fort zone. Its 35 main­stage con­certs (not count­ing youth con­certs and four run-outs to Al­bu­querque) are weighted to­ward very fa­mil­iar pieces by very fa­mil­iar com­posers, and the per­form­ing ros­ter is heavy with the names of mu­si­cians who ap­pear an­nu­ally with the fes­ti­val and, in some cases, are prob­a­bly al­ready booked here for years to come.

An ad­van­tage of such a strat­egy is that mu­sic lovers who at­tend the fes­ti­val’s con­certs with any reg­u­lar­ity will be in a pretty good po­si­tion to hand­i­cap the of­fer­ings. If you liked the way the Orion String Quar­tet played Beethoven’s Op. 127 last time, you will prob­a­bly like it again this time. If you could hardly wait to ap­plaud at the end of the most re­cent per­for­mance played here by the Miró, Mi­ami, or Johannes Quar­tets, you will prob­a­bly be ea­ger to do the same this sum­mer. The most ex­cit­ing self-stand­ing four­some in the whole lineup this sea­son is the Dover Quar­tet, which was un­usu­ally fine in its fes­ti­val de­but per­for­mances last sum­mer. The group will be back this sea­son, but only to play a sin­gle piece: Schu­bert’s Rosamunde Quar­tet, as part of the fi­nal con­cert of the sea­son, on Aug. 24.

One en­tirely new ensem­ble will bow at the fes­ti­val this year, the Mon­trose Trio, which of­fers pi­ano trios by Tu­rina (his Sec­ond), Beethoven (his First), and Brahms (his First) at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium on Thurs­day, July 23. Although the group is just re­cently minted, it con­sists of three distin­guished chambermusic vet­er­ans who are well-known in these parts: vi­o­lin­ist Martin Beaver and cel­list Clive Green­smith, who played to­gether for more than a decade in the now-dis­banded Tokyo Quar­tet, along with pi­anist Jon Kimura Parker.

Parker also takes the stage all alone this week, on Tues­day, July 21 (at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium), for the first of the fes­ti­val’s pop­u­lar noon­time con­certs. This Cana­dian pi­anist, who teaches at the Shep­herd School of Mu­sic of Hous­ton’s Rice Univer­sity, makes the rounds of no­table or­ches­tras and con­cert halls, but he al­ways seems to have some un­usual, grat­i­fy­ing pro­ject up his sleeve as well, which may add to the sense of per­sonal and in­tel­lec­tual bon­homie he projects. He has toured out­posts in the frozen Arc­tic, per­formed in war-torn Sara­jevo, and kept Cana­dian mu­sic lovers en­gaged through his tele­vi­sion and ra­dio broad­casts — and does now through the “Con­certo Chat” video se­ries on his YouTube chan­nel.

His recital pro­gram this Tues­day opens with Beethoven’s Pi­ano Sonata in C-sharp mi­nor “quasi una fan­ta­sia,” pop­u­larly known as the Moon­light Sonata. Ev­ery­body has surely been ex­posed to brood­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions of its open­ing Ada­gio sostenuto move­ment; but very of­ten those are glimpsed at an am­a­teur level, and top-notch pro­fes­sion­als pro­gram the piece less fre­quently than you might think. In any case, the sonata is much more than just its first move­ment, and par­tic­u­larly its fi­nale, an un­bri­dled Presto agi­tato, can con­vey drama of the most vi­o­lent sort. From there, Parker moves on to two works that fig­ure on a CD of pi­ano fan­tasies he re­leased last Novem­ber through the ide­al­is­tic mu­sic-dis­tri­bu­tion ser­vice CD Baby. The first is by Beethoven’s great ad­mirer Franz Schu­bert, his Wanderer Fan­tasy. This is one of Schu­bert’s most vir­tu­osic key­board works. Its tech­ni­cal de­mands proved en­dur­ingly fas­ci­nat­ing even to Franz Liszt, the premier pi­anist of the post-Schu­bert gen­er­a­tion. Liszt went so far as to tran­scribe the piece into a ver­sion for pi­ano plus or­ches­tra, and it seems that when he came to write his own tow­er­ing Pi­ano Sonata in B mi­nor, he did so with Schu­bert’s Wanderer Fan­tasy hov­er­ing as a for­mal model.

To con­clude his recital, Parker serves up a fan­tasy work that will be new to nearly all lis­ten­ers: Wil­liam Hirtz’s Wiz­ard of Oz Fan­tasy. Though he’s far from a house­hold name, Hirtz is a flu­ent mu­si­cian who is mostly ac­tive as a song­writer and an or­ches­tra­tor of film scores. (One can­not re­sist quot­ing An­dré Previn’s as­sess­ment of him, posted on Hirtz’s web­site: “Bill has to de­cide whether to be­come John Wil­liams or Horowitz.”) Parker writes that Hirtz “can work pi­anis­tic mir­a­cles out of har­mony, rhythm and tex­ture” and ex­plains how the piece came about: “Sev­eral years ago he showed me a pi­ano duet Fan­tasy that he had com­posed us­ing sev­eral of Harold Arlen’s iconic themes from The Wiz­ard of Oz sound­track. It was joy­ous, tech­ni­cally rau­cous, and seem­ingly fea­tured dozens of notes all at once. I jok­ingly com­mented that if he could ar­range this Fan­tasy for one pi­ano two hands I would hap­pily play it. I thought noth­ing more about it.” Sev­eral months later, pages dense with mu­si­cal no­ta­tion be­gan spew­ing out of Parker’s fax ma­chine. “I rec­og­nized the mu­sic — it was in­deed the Fan­tasy ar­ranged for two hands — but couldn’t imag­ine how it might be played. I called Bill and com­plained, ‘Hey, didn’t you know that when you re­ar­range a four-hand work for two hands, that you’re sup­posed to leave out some of the notes!!’ … It’s one of the most dif­fi­cult works I’ve played, pe­riod.”

Of the four fur­ther solo-pi­ano recitals that pep­per the sea­son, two seem es­pe­cially promis­ing. On July 30, Parker’s fel­low Cana­dian Marc-An­dré Hamelin plays another of Schu­bert’s ma­jor key­board achieve­ments, the tow­er­ing Sonata in B-flat ma­jor (D. 960), pre­ceded by a work ti­tled To­ward the Cen­ter by Ye­hudi Wyner (also Cana­di­an­born, though he grew up in the United States and has pur­sued his long and distin­guished ca­reer at lead­ing univer­si­ties in this coun­try). Wyner wrote this fan­tasy in 1988 to honor the re­tire­ment of pi­anist Ward Davenny from the fac­ulty of the Yale School of Mu­sic, where they were col­leagues for many years. Then on Aug. 18, Anne-Marie McDer­mott pays a re­turn

visit, of­fer­ing works by two com­posers with whom she shows a strong affin­ity. The pieces she has pro­grammed, Bach’s Par­tita No. 2 and Prokofiev’s Pi­ano Sonata No. 8, are both high­lights of her recorded cat­a­logue, ben­e­fit­ting from her com­bi­na­tion of tech­ni­cal daz­zle, mu­si­cal clar­ity, and emo­tional breath.

Solo recitals stand a bit out­side the cen­tral mis­sion of a cham­ber mu­sic fes­ti­val, to be sure. Nearly all the pro­grams of ac­tual cham­ber mu­sic hew to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s vari­ably re­ward­ing mix-and-match for­mat, in which each piece fea­tures dif­fer­ent per­son­nel and the in­di­vid­ual items in a con­cert have no par­tic­u­lar con­nec­tion from one to the other. It cre­ates work for the peo­ple who re­ar­range the fur­ni­ture on­stage, but apart from that, the ben­e­fits of this over-fa­mil­iar for­mat are elu­sive. It is ac­cord­ingly eas­ier to rec­om­mend in­di­vid­ual pieces within pro­grams than pro­grams in their en­tirety this sum­mer.

One of the en­tries that looks es­pe­cially promis­ing is the Pi­ano Quin­tet of Leo Orn­stein, which Hamelin and the Johannes String Quar­tet will per­form on Aug. 2 and 3. Orn­stein, who died in 2002 at the age of ei­ther one hun­dred and eight or one hun­dred and nine, was a brash mod­ernist in his youth, and his Pi­ano Quin­tet, from 1927, in­cor­po­rates quite a bit of the then-new mu­si­cal ways of think­ing. It is a large-scale work — its three move­ments span about 40 min­utes — and it moves with quick­sil­ver fi­nesse through pas­sages that may sug­gest night­time mys­tery à la Bartók, ro­man­tic flair à la Rach­mani­noff, and Jewish can­til­la­tion à la Bloch. In a good per­for­mance, it packs a punch. Another pi­ano quin­tet that should be worth a de­tour is Bartók’s, which McDer­mott and the Mi­ami String Quar­tet will per­form on Aug. 16 at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter. This is an early work in which the com­poser be­gan to ex­press his dis­tinc­tive style while still in the em­brace of the in­flu­ence he in­her­ited from Liszt and Brahms. The Mi­ami String Quar­tet is not noted for fi­nesse in clas­sic works, but it may prove well-suited to the emerg­ing Bartók; and about McDer­mott one would have no cause for doubt.

Sean Shep­herd’s String Quar­tet No. 2, which is one of this year’s two fes­ti­val com­mis­sions, will be en­trusted to the FLUX Quar­tet for two out­ings, on Aug. 6 and 7 (fol­low­ing its world pre­miere the pre­ced­ing night in Al­bu­querque — take that, Santa Fe!). Now in his mid-30s, Shep­herd tends to­ward an in­tri­cate style that pro­vides a lot of in­for­ma­tion to process at first hear­ing, but his mu­sic also con­veys logic and se­cu­rity that will con­vince most lis­ten­ers to stick with it. His achieve­ments have won him ex­po­sure at a high level. He spent two years as a com­poser-fel­low at the Cleve­land Or­ches­tra, and in 2012 he was the first per­son named as the Kravis Emerg­ing Com­poser of the New York Phil­har­monic. The Fes­ti­val’s other com­mis­sion is a set of Seven Im­promp­tus for Two Pi­anos by Alexan­der Goehr (sched­uled for Aug. 17). Two fur­ther pieces com­mis­sioned by par­ties other than the Fes­ti­val will re­ceive their first hear­ings: Goehr’s Vari­a­tions (Homage to Haydn), com­mis­sioned by pi­anist Kirill Gerstein, who will play it on Sun­day, July 19, and Mon­day,

July 20; and a guitar quin­tet by Marc Neikrug, the Fes­ti­val’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, com­mis­sioned by a mem­ber of the Fes­ti­val’s ad­vi­sory coun­cil and sched­uled on Aug. 9 and 10. The lat­ter work in­cludes among its in­ter­preters Łukasz Kuropaczewski, a Pol­ish gui­tarist still in the for­ma­tive stage of his ca­reer; he will ap­pear in pro­grams four days run­ning, in­clud­ing a solo recital. Guitar afi­ciona­dos will more nat­u­rally grav­i­tate to­ward the recital by the more es­tab­lished David Starobin, although for some rea­son his free “In­dian Mar­ket con­cert,” at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium on Aug. 21, does not fig­ure ei­ther on the Fes­ti­val’s web­site cal­en­dar or on some of the cir­cu­lars the group is dis­tribut­ing. We are as­sured that it is tak­ing place, though.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s artist-in-res­i­dence this sum­mer is Alan Gil­bert, mu­sic di­rec­tor of the New York Phil­har­monic, who ful­filled the same role three sea­sons ago. On that oc­ca­sion he ap­peared as a vi­o­list in ad­di­tion to con­duct­ing var­i­ous pieces. This year he will be on the podium the whole time, con­duct­ing Mozart’s Ser­e­nade in B-flat ma­jor (K. 361), the Gran Par­tita, at the Len­sic on Aug. 22, and Mes­si­aen’s Des canyons aux étoiles … (From the Canyons to the Stars …) in the same hall the fol­low­ing evening. The Mozart is a su­per­nal work for 12 winds plus dou­ble bass, a piece most mu­sic lovers want to visit of­ten. The Mes­si­aen is a mon­u­men­tal en­try in the reper­toire: 12 move­ments (di­vided among three sec­tions, the whole run­ning be­yond an hour and a half) inspired by a trip in 1972 dur­ing which the com­poser and his wife vis­ited some of the most spec­tac­u­lar sites of the Amer­i­can West, in­clud­ing the na­tional parks of Bryce Canyon and Zion. These con­certs are self-rec­om­mend­ing, and if you don’t have tick­ets re­served yet, you would be un­wise to wait much longer. The Mozart ser­e­nade sits at the edge of the tra­di­tional def­i­ni­tion of cham­ber mu­sic, which in­volves rel­a­tively small en­sem­bles with a sep­a­rate mu­si­cian on each part, the group al­most al­ways play­ing with­out a con­duc­tor. The Mes­si­aen re­quires re­sources still more vast; its bird­song and sub­lim­ity is en­trusted to 44 play­ers, and it could not be es­sayed with­out a con­duc­tor. In any case, it ap­pears to be the only piece in this sum­mer’s lineup that truly sup­ports the idea of “fes­ti­val,” even if it sets aside the con­cept of “cham­ber mu­sic” to do so.

Jon Kimura Parker

Alan Gil­bert

Marc-An­dré Hamelin

Johannes String Quar­tet

Anne-Marie McDer­mott

Sean Shep­herd

Mon­trose Trio

Dover Quar­tet

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