Thursday, November 12, 2015

Leila Josefowicz & John Novacek - Falla, Messiaen, Schumann, Tüür & Adams - 11/10/15

Falla: Suite populaire espagnole
Messiaen: Theme and Variations
Schumann: Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 105
Tüür: Conversio
Adams: Road Movies

Bold in her choices and fearless in her playing, Leila Josefowicz is a violinist whose performances I make a point of attending as often as possible, which is not as easy as it sounds considering how popular she is all over the world. And for all the right reasons too. So I was thrilled at the perspective of a chance to hear her in Zankel Hall's intimate space with pianist John Novacek in a program as eclectic as adventurous on Tuesday night. Quite a nice little pick-me-up at the end of a dreary November day.

The musical journey across countries and through time started in Spain at the turn of the 20th century, with a colorful bouquet of transcriptions of songs by Manuel del Falla, from the high-spirited "El paño moruno" and the ethereal "Nana" to the uncompromising "Polo" and the lovely "Canción". A fiery and subtle opening to a concert that managed to deliver many additional treasured moments one after the other.
A couple of decades or so later, French composer Olivier Messiaen was offering his "Theme and Variations" to his wife, violinist and composer Claire Delbos, for their wedding. It has obviously been a gift that has kept on giving as on Tuesday night Leila Josefowicz and John Novacek treated their audience to a divinely inspired, beautifully nuanced performance of the intricate, mood-swinging work.
Then it was on to mid-19th century Germany with Robert Schumann's Violin Sonata No. 1, a quintessential Romantic piece that the duo vigorously dusted up and cleverly spiked up. The two contrasting personas of sweet Eusebius and feisty Florestan were therefore transposed to modern times for a genuinely winning rendition. Schumann would have surely been pleased.
Like his illustrious predecessor Arvo Pärt, contemporary Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür obviously has a knack for gratifying minimalism. His light but relentless "Conversio" started with an insistent violin and a sporadic piano before progressively wandering among many intriguing, ever-changing paths, which all came together for a riveting experience.
Leila Josefowicz's long-standing professional and personal relationship with contemporary American composer John Adams makes her the de facto ultimate interpreter of his work for violin – He has after all written a violin concerto just for her – and the artistic chemistry was clearly palpable during "Road Movies", a delightful account of a delightful composition. Captivating in its unpretentious virtuosity, this "Road Movies" took us along numerous musical landscapes for an endlessly fun, truly relaxing ride.

The encore of course had to be something off the beaten track, and it was, with Claus Ogermann' arrangement of "Smile" from Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, an exquisite combination of simplicity and intensity with concluded the concert on a gentle, deeply felt note.

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