Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mozart, Alvarez and Chausson: Spring Strings and Piano

Our dress rehearsal for Sunday’s Chamber Classics concert was interrupted by the loudest hail I have ever heard. I had come home from the morning’s rehearsal, and while driving back to the Bijou I noticed a fairly sinister looking cloud to the west. We were having trouble getting the piano to be heard clearly at the rehearsal. It turned out that it just needed to be further downstage, but for about 15 minutes we were under siege and wondering what our cars were going to look like at the end of the day. In the end it was all just a bunch of noise; the hailstones were many, but nothing larger than a nickel.

Second violinist Edward found Javier Alvarez’ Metro Chabacano, in his memory bank of modern works for string quartet. The term is synonymous with a subway stop in Mexico City, and the word chabacano is a slang word for apricot. While the relentless motor rhythm of this piece suggests a train, there are some sounds in the first violin melody that are decidedly avian. Note: any pages falling off of stands are meant to. Please resist the urge to rush on stage and help.

Mozart’s String Quartet K. 428 starts with a very slinky motif that is just 3 tones short of being a twelve-tone row. In unison. It has been the subject of much debate in quartet rehearsals. Now that these notes have been installed, we think we have at least a ballpark estimate of where E♭ is. It’s a great key; something about having an open string as the third of the chord is very warming. The Andante con moto has a rich texture more like Brahms, and the Minuet’s theme features another animal-call; this time I think it’s the donkey. The closing Allegro vivace will feature first violinist Gordon “Go-go” Tsai raining down notes like, umm, hail. Katy bar the door!

Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Quartet will be the second half of the show. Concertmaster Gabe Lefkowicz and pianist Emi Kagawa add a splendid chamber music chemistry to the quartet to present a rarely-heard work reminiscent of Tchaikovsky and Franck, but predictive of Ravel and Gershwin. It could easily be called Sonata or even Symphony. Call it what you want, but this kind of music sounds SO much better live! Don’t go by Billboard’s rating when it comes to classical music. (Amazon had this rated at #99,549th on their list of requested “songs”).

We would like to thank American Piano Gallery out at Turkey Creek for generously letting us use their space for rehearsals. Also, people should be aware that the Knoxville Marathon will still be happening during Sunday’s concert, so yield to tired runners if you please.

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