Showing posts with label Charles Abramovic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Abramovic. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wrap-Up: 30 Years of Musical Magic from DCMF

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Where has the time gone? The Delaware Chamber Music Festival (DCMF) has just wrapped up its 30th anniversary season.  The DCMF has been called one of the state’s
“best kept secrets.” Personally, I think there are far too many “best kept secrets” on the local arts scene.

DCMF Music Director and Violinist Barbara Govatos promised a program worthy of the milestone, and she did not disappoint with set lists that blended the traditional and the contemporary, old favorites and some genuine surprises. Where else would one see two double bassists over two weekends?

The first concert (Friday, June 12) opened with Rossini’s String Sonata No. 2 in A Major. Bright, breezy and charming — he wrote it when he was 12 
— it nevertheless requires precision, subtly graded dynamics and purity of tone — all qualities brought by the festival quartet with deft support from debuting guest double bassist Xavier Foley.

A nice contrast was achieved with a Piano Trio by cellist-composer Gaspar Cassado. It is explicitly and ethnically Spanish from its very first chords. Pianist Marcantonio Barone, cellist Clancy Newman and Govatos are persuasive advocates of this piece that Govatos “discovered” on YouTube, and their playing is first class. The evening ended with a performance of Schubert’s much loved “Trout” Quintet. The ensemble built through the introduction to the opening Allegro with a strong sense of where the music should go, continuing with lively rhythms and balance: Again, Foley is present but never weights the players down.

The second concert (Sunday, June 14) opened on a pensive note with a performance of Heidi Jacob’s Winter Light. Inspired by the Bergman film, “In Winter Light,” this serial work has a mournful somberness about it and a highly expressive — not to mention challenging — string part brilliantly executed by Govatos. Collaborating on piano with Govatos was the composer’s husband, Charles Abramovic.

The mood considerably lightened when Abramovic and Russian pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine sat down at the concert grands to perform Brahms’ joyful “St. Anthony Variations.” Abramovic reminded the audience that the work was originally scored for two pianos and played for the first time by the composer and his close friend Clara Schumann. This was a truly superb performance, capturing all the color one would hear in the orchestrated version. I don’t think Brahms and Schumann could have performed it any better.

They then switched pianos for a performance of Brubeck’s jazz ballet Points on Jazz, a work that had personal significance for both performance. Moutouzkine recalls playing it with his mother, while Abramovic remembers Brubeck from an LP his parents owned. Like fusion cuisine, fusion music isn’t for everyone, but to quote Duke Ellington, "...there are only two kinds of music: good and bad." And this was definitely good and well-played.

The third concert (Friday, June 19) carried the theme “A Little Night Music” and featured the festival debut of double bassist Brent Edmondson, a Newark, Del. native.

One would expect to hear Mozart’s iconic Serenade in G Major, Eine Kleine Nachtmusic —always a pleasure 
 but not before something a bit more contemporary in the form of George Crumb’s Four Nocturnes (Night Music II) for Violin and Piano. This is truly night music: delicate and serene. The violin is heard in the highest register with wide-ranging intervals from time to time. There are long silences and occasional hints of birdsong. Only in the second Notturno does the music become a bit edgy. Govatos and Barone do the honors of exploiting the various timbres of their respective instruments: plucking, rapping on crossbeams, touching the strings on nodal points or simply depressing the keys.

Schubert explores the music of the night in his mystical Notturno, a single movement for piano trio in which the strings — Govatos and Newman — matched the gentility of Barone’s piano work. Their pizzicato was delicate throughout — not the standard pluck-away — as the musicians found their way through the muscularity of the dotted rhythms and the sonorous and lyrical slow bits.

Many have been fascinated with Boccherini’s La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid with its vivid evocation of bells, beggars, drums and the rosary. Here the quartet with the participation of Edmondson dispatched it with an elegant precision.  Barone provided an interlude of pure piano simplicity with his masterful performances of Faure and Chopin nocturnes.

The festival concluded on Sunday, June 21, with the core quartet taking on a musically and emotionally challenging set. Czech folk rhythms, national fervor, memories of youth and private anguish — the composer is coming to terms with his deafness 
 unite in the intimacy of Smetana’s String Quartet No. 1, From My Life. From the opening impassioned viola solo executed here by Burchard Tang to the closing pages of the finale which reduxes the dramatic falling fifth of the opening and introduces a whistling high E which signals the tinnitus that plagued the composer later in life, the quartet drills into Smetana’s anguish, creating the shivers it should.

Janacek’s First Quarter (Kreutzer Sonata) draws loosely on themes from Tolstoy’s novella: suspected betrayal, regret and disillusionment. This is music that can turn on a dime from introspection to unbridled exhibition, using small but potent motifs, a dazzling array of rhythms and an equally broad range of coloristic techniques and a chromaticism firmly rooted in the early 20th Century. The playing is positively explosive, concluding a strong season on an equally strong note.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Summing Up the 2014 Delaware Chamber Music Festival

Delaware Chamber Music Festival Quartet, L-R:
Clancy Newman, Burchard Tang, Hirono Oka, Barbara Govatos 
Alas, all things must end — as did the Delaware Chamber Music Festival today (Sunday, June 22, 2014).

The programming must be commended for variety and standards.  Barbara Govatos and friends have consistently chosen works from the past which often are seldom used — either because they are not known or because they are so wildly difficult (such as the Tchaikovsky Trio Opus 50 performed in the first concert) — or they choose women composers who never got a fair shake (e.g., Rebecca Clarke's piece in the second concert themed "The Expressive Viola").  And speaking of fair shake, when you hear such artists as Burchard Tang and Che-Hung Chen play the viola up close and personal, it shows the audience that the viola deserves a role as solo instrument.

The incredible ability of Marcantonio Barone and the joy with which he and Charles Abramovic tore through excerpts of the Brahms Hungarian Dances for piano, four hands; the energy and excitement of Benito Meza's clarinet giving new impetus to Louise Farrenc (a woman composer who DID get a fair shake, but was later relegated to the attic); the introduction of new works by Clancy Newman and Kenji Bunch.  All are enough to make this series an experiment in innovative programming for some of the best musicians in the region.  How lucky we are, too, that The Music School of Delaware is such an acoustically inviting venue, convenient to Wilmington and Philadelphia as well as points south.

The first concert in the Festival (Friday, June 13) featured a chestnut — Beethoven's Piano Trio in E-flat major, Opus 1, No. 1 — played with daring and flawless passion by Govatos, Clancy Newman and Marcantonio Barone.  The introduction of a piece so hard it is rarely performed — Tchaikovsky's Piano Trio in A minor, Opus 50 — was a distinctive treat.

The second concert (Sunday, June 15) let the viola shine with a stellar performance of Rebecca Clarke's Sonata for viola and piano.  It also included the Lament for two violas in c minor by Frank Bridge and the Brahms' String quintet in G major, Opus 111.  This concert let us hear more of Burchard Tang's fine viola playing as well as that of Che-Hung Chen.

The third concert (Friday, June 20) was entitled Fresh Ink! as it featured the US Premiere of Clancy Newman's Collision Course for piano, clarinet and cello (2013).  Guest clarinet player Benito Meza not only put his fresh energy to work on the new piece by Newman, but also breathed new life into the Trio for clarinet, cello and piano in E-flat major, Opus 44 by Louise Farrenc.  The performance of the 2002 Broken Music for cello and piano by Kenji Bunch was also a new experience, with Bartok fretboard slapping on the cello by Newman and damping of hammers by Marcantonio Barone.  But the boyish vigor with which Charles Abramovic and Barone gleefully played the excerpts of Brahms' 21 Hungarian Dances for piano, four hands, was the freshest 'ink' of the evening.

The final concert (Sunday, June 22) was all string quartets, performed by the Festival Quartet themselves.  They coordinate so well to communicate Franz Josef Haydn's jokes, Dvorak's passion and Schubert's complex and often operatic sounding works.  Each has a special gift that is hard to describe.  Hirono Oka, so shy and quiet in person, pushes her violin bow to create a round, secure, sometimes aggressive sound.  Burchard Tang had some very high and exciting lines, sometimes in duet with the violin and sometimes with the cello.  Clancy Newman had cello notes which soared high in the range with ease and his smooth sound belied his ability to rock out for Broken Music and his own Collision Course.  DCMF Music Director Barbara Govatos, who manages everything from reception cookies to recognizing her music students from decades past, puts all those thoughts down when she bows her head to decide on her tempo and expression before each movement of the grand Schubert quartet.

How sad that we have to wait one more year to hear more!


Monday, February 3, 2014

A Romantic Russian Afternoon with WCO

The Wilmington Community Orchestra performed the Russian Easter Overture, Opus 36 by Nickolai Rimsky-Korsakov and in doing so showed off some of the talented players. Larry Hamermesh, concertmaster, played his solos with panache and the clarinet work of Anthony Pantelopulos and Michelle Webb was a delight. Melinda Bowman’s soaring and delicate flute lines created a spider web of texture for the orchestra. Barry Morris, Pete Witherell and Jim Yurasek took on the demanding trombone parts with ease and it sounded great. I was also delighted to hear the double basses shine in their rhythmic underpinning to the very striking overture.

Charles Abramovic, piano
But when Charles Abramovic began to play the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major by Franz Liszt, I could not listen to anything but the amazing piano sounds. Mr. Abramovic is an excellent pianist, but I had heard him play mainly modern piano music before this concert, so I was overwhelmed by his ability to make the piano notes ring and reverberate with the sort of perfect declamatory sound that is so characteristic of romantic music. The concerto is an unbelievable tour de force technically, but Mr. Abramovic seemed unconcerned by notes and dedicated to following the conductor and the orchestra. His dynamic control was superb and he had passages where he had to put a theme forward and have all twenty other fingers play rather quietly in the background. In the finale of the concerto, he played a resounding fortissimo which went deep into the keyboard to produce a ringing and resonant echo for the orchestra. It was quite a feat and he richly deserved the booming applause.

Dr. Schwartz spoke of the excitement of a premier on March 23, when the WCO will host the unveiling of a violin concerto composed specifically for the Wilmington Community Orchestra by English composer David Osbon, who came to hear them last year when they were rehearsing for another concert. The composer will conduct while the conductor plays the concerto.