Pasa Re­views

Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val’s open­ing pro­gram

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS -

Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val si­dled into its 43rd sea­son ear­lier this week with two go-rounds of a very long pro­gram that re­warded lis­ten­ers who sat it out to the end. Again this year I can­not ex­plain why the fes­ti­val de­lights in open­ing its sea­son with a neg­li­gi­ble work, of which Gioachino Rossini’s three-move­ment Duetto for Cello and Dou­ble Bass is an ex­em­plar. Cel­list Joseph John­son and dou­ble bassist Kris­ten Bruya brought tech­ni­cal fi­nesse to the task. Their uni­son pizzi­catos in the first move­ment and John­son’s can­tilena in the sec­ond were ad­mirable, but when all is said and done, it was a dull 15 min­utes well-played.

Pi­anist Kirill Gerstein then took to the stage to per­form the pre­miere of Alexan­der Goehr’s Vari­a­tions (Homage to Haydn), which he had com­mis­sioned. But for the ti­tle, no lis­tener could pos­si­bly have guessed that there was a Haydn con­nec­tion. In a com­ment printed in the pro­gram, Goehr re­veals that his piece bor­rows some struc­tural el­e­ments from Haydn’s F-mi­nor Key­board Vari­a­tions. “To do this,” he main­tains, “does not im­ply a close­ness to the orig­i­nal, rather in­evitably a dis­tance from it.” Goehr’s as­pi­ra­tions did seem dis­tant from many of Haydn’s, which very of­ten cen­ter on wit, charisma, and un­pre­dictabil­ity. Then, too, Haydn’s mu­sic of­ten dis­closes its depths through re­peated lis­ten­ing, and who am I to ques­tion whether or not Goehr’s Vari­a­tions would do the same? Gerstein’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion, ren­dered in pi­anis­tic gri­saille, mostly stressed the piece’s three-note ges­tures, usu­ally go­ing up, some­times go­ing down, per­se­ver­ing for 10 min­utes within a seem­ingly atonal, gen­er­ally un­ap­pe­tiz­ing at­mos­phere.

A work­man­like ren­di­tion of Mozart’s Pi­ano-and-Winds Quin­tet fol­lowed. Notwith­stand­ing nicely turned play­ing from some of the par­tic­i­pants, no­tably pi­anist Jon Kimura Parker and clar­inetist Todd Levy, one rarely sensed the una­nim­ity of pur­pose that marks care­fully con­sid­ered cham­ber in­ter­pre­ta­tions. Some­one — Parker, I guess — had the idea to elon­gate the open­ing notes of the prin­ci­pal themes of the first and third move­ments. It ren­dered the re­spec­tive melodies flat-footed rather than nim­ble or grace­ful, and in any case, the no­tion was adopted only spo­rad­i­cally by the wind con­tin­gent.

Tchaikovsky’s Pi­ano Trio, which oc­cu­pied the sec­ond half, there­fore had a lot of re­deem­ing to do. Cel­list Ron­ald Thomas, a reg­u­lar on the fes­ti­val’s ros­ter through many years, al­ways seems to el­e­vate the per­for­mances in which he par­tic­i­pates. This was no ex­cep­tion. His deep, warm tone and un­os­ten­ta­tious com­mit­ment set a high bar that the other play­ers — vi­o­lin­ist Ben­jamin Beil­man and pi­anist Gerstein — came very close to clear­ing. Gerstein pro­jected firm-handed au­thor­ity, and Beil­man dis­played ad­mirable ac­cu­racy even when un­leash­ing him­self on the work’s more pas­sion­ate pas­sages. It has been a plea­sure to hear this young vi­o­lin­ist ma­ture over the past sev­eral years. At full throt­tle, his tone could err on the side of plan­gency, but that was the ex­cep­tion rather than the rule. Of course, it was not an is­sue at all in the ninth vari­a­tion of the mas­sive sec­ond move­ment. There the strings in­stall mutes, and Beil­man used that op­por­tu­nity to pro­duce sounds in which al­most un­bear­able sweet­ness was im­bued with a haunting qual­ity. Ev­ery­one added bal­letic lilt in the sixth vari­a­tion, and the eighth, a fu­gato, pro­vided a mea­sure of lev­ity that was ex­ceed­ingly welcome by that point. The con­trast­ing tem­pos of the vari­a­tions un­rolled with a nat­u­ral­ness and logic that can only have been achieved through the mu­si­cians’ at­ten­tive fore­thought. — James M. Keller

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.