Saturday, April 11, 2015

Music Mondays - The Debussy "Six" - 04/06/15

Claude Debussy: Sonata for Cello and Piano
Julia Bruskin: Cello - Aaron Wunsch: Piano
Thomas Adès: Sonata da caccia for Oboe, Horn, and Harpsichord
Arthur Sato: Oboe - Elizabeth Martignetti: Horn - Christopher Oldfather: Harpsichord
Claude Debussy: Sonata for Violin and Piano
Jesse Mills: Violin - Rieko Aizawa: Piano
Libby Larsen: Ferlinghetti for Clarinet, Viola and Piano
Todd Palmer: Clarinet - Edward Klorman: Viola - Aaron Wunsch: Piano
Claude Debussy: Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp
Alex Soop: Flute - Edward Klorman: Viola - Bridget Kibbey: Harp
Marc-André Dalbavie: Axiom for Piano, Clarinet, Bassoon and Trumpet
Todd Palmer: Clarinet - Peter Evans: Trumpet - Adrian Morejon: Bassoon - Aaron Wunsch: Piano

On Monday, January 26, I was in a train on my way back to New York City from Washington, DC to attend Music Mondays' eagerly anticipated The Debussy "Six" concert and, incidentally, beat the forecast "historic" blizzard. Later that day, however, it was announced that the subway system was shutting down. Therefore, the concert had to be cancelled and rescheduled. Oh, and the blizzard did not turn out to be "historic" anyway.
On Monday, February 16, I was in a bus on my way back to New York City from Washington, DC to attend Music Mondays' thankfully rescheduled The Debussy "Six" concert. Later that day, however, it was announced that one of the musicians had fallen ill. Therefore, the concert had to be cancelled and re-rescheduled.
On Monday, April 6, I was in the subway on my way back to the Upper West Side from The Flatiron District to attend Music Mondays' miraculously re-rescheduled the Debussy "Six" concert. And later that day, lo and behold, the concert actually happened!
Seeing the name of Claude Debussy on a concert program is always the promise of a special treat for me, and the perspective of hearing the three sonatas he wrote as part of his unfinished "Six sonatas for various instruments" project, plus the three more sonatas written by contemporary composers inspired by the project, definitely sounded like a truly extra-special treat to me. And against all odds, snow storms, illnesses, and logistical challenges (Have you ever tried scheduling 13 busy musicians and special instruments three times in three months?), ever-resilient Music Mondays eventually made that seemingly elusive dream come true.

Debussy's delicately nuanced yet unabashedly playful "Sonata for Cello and Piano" opened the program with a lot of beautiful sounds, which were produced with plenty of technical dexterity and made a strong impression in only a dozen minutes.
It was followed by Thomas Adès' "Sonata da caccia", the contemporary English composer heeding Debussy's choice of instruments for the fourth sonata he did not live long enough to write. The result was an engagingly quirky baroque piece in which lovely melodies and riotous cacophony deftly mixed.
Back to Debussy with his "Sonata for Violin and Piano", we were in for a lightly vivacious tribute to the French musical master with what happened to be his last composition.
Then Libby Larsen introduced her own piece, "Ferlinghetti", which was finally having its world premiere on Monday evening. Drawing inspiration from poems by the undisputed giant of the Beat movement, the eclectic work featured six vignettes containing musical inside jokes and evoking a wide range of images, from a sexy "Paris in a loud, dark winter" to a softly depicted "sad nude", and ended in a loudly patriotic number. There was a lot going on, but all in good, insightful fun.
Debussy's last and most substantial gem on the program, his "Sonata for Flute, Harp, and Viola", also stood out as the most memorable performance of the evening for its kind of unusual but outright appealing instrumental combination and unmistakably Debussian mood. It started with a refreshingly light-hearted Pastoral movement, all subtle colors and halting pointillism, dreamily strolling in a bucolic landscape on a beautiful spring day. The Interlude had a ball merrily frolicking in the verdant fields and the Finale provided a decidedly faster, denser, but still unquestionably atmospheric, ending.
We came back down to organic earth with Marc-André Dalbavie's blazingly virtuosic "Axiom", which assertively opened with furiously descending octaves and rigorously channeled the musicians' energy for a rush-inducing performance. This was a surprisingly fitting conclusion to a Debussy musical feast, if for nothing else than the gleefully stark contrast it provided. The extra-special treat had been worth waiting for.

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