Friday, May 17, 2024

Concerti in Floridiana - Four Seasons Four Hands - 05/12/24

Yoshinao Nakada: The Four Seasons of Japan 
Astor Piazzolla: The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (arranged by Kyoko Yamamoto) 
Sugiko Chinen: Piano 
Luca Arnaldo Maria Colombo: Piano 

After having settled comfortably into my house-sitting gig in Naples’ semi-upscale neighborhood of Arenella, I have been looking for ways to make my stay in the Parthenopean city even more special, beside further exploring the sprawling metropolis (Mergenella has been captivating my attention lately), indulging in the stupendous cuisine (If I look and act like a sfogiatella addict, it is because I am), and making new local friends (Salve Carmen!). 
And then, last week I had the bright idea to check the schedule of the concert series taking place in the neat Museo Duca di Martina of the lovely Villa Floridiana, my favorite spot for bonding not only with nature, but with the numerous cats living there as well, in the totally upscale neighborhood of the Vomero. Turned out that the next and last concert of the season was going to be an intriguing Japanese and Argentinian four-hand recital at the totally civilized hour of 11:30 AM the following Sunday. 
After reserving one seat by email and, lo and behold, not hearing back, I still decided to take a chance and go, figuring that I could always content myself with the park, its panoramic views, and its debonair furry residents if the ticket didn’t materialize. Last Sunday being Mothers’ Day in Italy, I had giddily sent my mom a special message at the crack of dawn to make sure she would have a nice surprise as soon as she turned on her phone. And surprised she was indeed, since I was two weeks early for the French Mother’s Day. Oh well. 
I eventually made it to Villa Floridiana, passing by a gazillion flower street vendors who had sprung up all over the neighborhood for the occasion, and once I got to the museum, lo and behold, there was no record of my reservation. But after I showed them proof and they did a bit of shuffling, I was handed a ticket and took a seat in the small, long and bare eggshell-and-ice blue room that quickly filled up to capacity. 
 The two musicians, Sugiko Chinen from Japan and Luca Arnaldo Maria Colombo from Italy, have worked as a musical duo for almost three decades, apparently making the most of their unusual but evidently winning combination. After having mastered the more traditional four-hands repertoire, they’re now focusing on more contemporary and exotic fare, which explains the genesis of last Sunday’s program “Four Hands Four Seasons.” 

The performance started with the more mysterious work of the day, Yoshinao Nakada’s The Four Seasons of Japan, which, oddly enough, consisted of six movements. Starting with spring, the music wasted no time celebrating nature’s renewal by joyfully conveying countless cherry blossoms popping up all over the place, before moving on to marveling at the bright sky of May, which we actually could almost see through the museum’s windows, and the majestic Mount Fuji, which we obviously could not. Long rainy days brought a bit of melancholia, and a dazzling evocation of rain drops galore. 
Summer, fall and winter may have been more succinctly described, but they were no less powerfully expressive and beautifully brought to life, all the way to winter’s falling snow and surrounding ice. Considering how many years they have been playing together, it came as no big shock that Colombo and Chinen immediately fell into an impeccably synchronized partnership, perfectly complementing each other without losing their own personality and mission. 
From Japan we moved right on to Argentina with Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, a four-movement piece originally composed for a quintet featuring an electric guitar and a bandoneon, and later arranged several times for different instrumentations, including a four-hands version by Japanese pianist Kyoko Yamamoto. How about that for a smooth transition? And the transition was in fact very smooth despite the contrasting nature of the two works, Colombo and Chinen handling Piazzola’s sexy tango-infused rhythms just as well as they did Nakada’s more restrained sensibility. 
They had decided to start with fall so that the Southern hemisphere would not feel left out, and the audience was more than happy to follow them in this exciting adventure that sounded at the same time freely improvised and tightly controlled, and a lot of infectious fun was had by all. Even the grumpy-looking older lady a couple of seats to my right, who had been repeatedly making and unmaking a paper boat with her program sheet, felt compelled to stop and pay attention, and so did the elderly gentleman to my left, whose sporadic fidgeting came to a complete halt. Now that’s power. 

After much applause from the extremely enthusiastic crowd, the duo chose a typical Neapolitan treat courtesy of a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor as an encore: The Tarantella in G Minor by Nikolai Rubinstein, which they dedicated to all the mothers in the room and beyond, and which concluded this wonderful musical aperitivo with plenty of virtuosic fireworks.